Daquan Neal got off to a fast start, and that was a big key to the Iowa Barnstormers remaining unbeaten.
Neal threw four first-half touchdowns and ran for another as Iowa reeled off its sixth consecutive victory on Sunday, posting a 55-16 win over the Bismarck Bucks in Indoor Football League play at the Bismarck Event Center.
The Elizabeth City State product showed why he was the league’s offensive player of the week two weeks ago, having a hand in six touchdowns on the afternoon – including all five of Iowa’s in the first half as they built a 34-0 lead.
“The offensive line was coming off the ball, receivers were running their routes and everybody was just on one point,” Neal said.
“Pretty much everything we wanted to do was pretty open. Everybody did their job and when you do that, it all comes together. As long as we do that, we’ll be all right.”
The Iowa defense forced five turnovers, getting started early as Tyrell Pearson picked off Bismarck starting quarterback Homer Causey’s first pass of the game.
Neal connected with Ryan Balentine – who hauled in four touchdown catches in the contest – from 6 yards out to cap Iowa’s opening possession, taking a quick 7-0 lead.
A 2-yard scoring strike to Raheem Harvey put the Barnstormers up 14-0, and the Iowa defense forced another turnover as a Bucks fumble set up the next score, a 29-yard connection between Neal and Harvey that made it 20-0.
The Barnstormers stuck to their game plan, with good results.
“Coming on the road is always hard,” Neal said. “We had a long road trip but we knew what we had to do at practice all week and we came out here and we did exactly that.”
The Bucks, meanwhile, had a hard time getting their offense going – their first field goal attempt hit the scoreboard and after having a touchdown run wiped off the board on a holding call, they missed wide on another field goal try.
Neal scored on a 4-yard QB keeper and following another takeaway on an interception, Neal connected with Balentine on a 5-yard scoring strike for a 34-0 lead.
Blake Levin got the Bucks on the board, drilling a 33-yard field goal on the final play of the first half to make it 34-3 at the intermission.
Malik Brown capped Iowa’s opening possession of the second half on a 23-yard TD run for a 41-3 lead.
Antwan Smith made a pair of big plays for the Bismarck defense. After a Bucks fumble, Smith intercepted Neal and Bismarck drove to the Barnstormers’ 1-yard line before a fourth-and-6 pass sailed through the end zone to halt the Bucks short of a score.
But with Iowa backed up at its own 5, Smith scooped up a fumble at the 5 and returned it for a defensive touchdown. The Dickinson State product got the Bucks their first TD of the game on the final play of the third quarter, making it 41-10.
Iowa added a pair of fourth-quarter TDs as Neal hit Balentine on an 8-yard TD pass and Brown threw a halfback pass to Balentine for a 17-yard score and a 55-10 lead.
Frederick Abraham took the ensuing kickoff back to the Barnstormers’ 1-yard line and Mayville State product Preston Hamlette rumbled in from there for the final score of the game with 1:14 remaining.
Iowa (6-0) travels to Sioux Falls on Saturday, April 20, while the Bucks (0-6) visit the Cedar Rapids River Kings.