Soul defeat Iowa, 76-62, end losing streak at five

DES MOINES, Iowa - Last season, Ryan Vena thrilled Iowa Barnstormers fans with deep touchdown tosses and quick-hit scoring plays.

On Saturday, the first-year Soul quarterback's performance elicited nothing but catcalls from the home crowd.

Vena, a former Barnstormer, threw for 186 yards and five touchdowns in the first half alone, helping the road-weary Soul to a 76-62 Arena Football League win in front of 8,103 at Wells Fargo Arena.

"They've got awesome fans - even though they were giving me a hard time the whole game," said Vena, who threw for 317 yards and eight touchdowns with one interception. "They were on me pretty hard, but that's understandable."

The Soul (2-5) snapped a five-game skid and extended Iowa's losing streak to four.

Vena started because Justin Allgood is battling the lingering effects of a concussion suffered a week ago. He connected with four receivers for touchdowns, including Keith Stokes and Syvelle Newton, who had three apiece.

"The bottom line is we won," said Soul coach Mike Hohensee, whose team eclipsed its previous season high in points scored by 15. Vena "wasn't perfect," he said. "There's a million things we need to work on, but we came down here in a tough environment - and I'm sure there was a lot of pressure on him to come down and win in front of this group. And I thought he played well a majority of the time."

All five of the Soul's losses have come by seven or fewer points - and 4.75 points on average.

Saturday proved relatively tension free.

The Soul built a 41-27 halftime lead and swiftly added to the advantage when Vena connected with Newton for a 28-yard touchdown two plays into the third quarter.

Then the Soul's only native Iowan, Tanner Varner, strutted into the end zone after his team-leading fifth interception, making the score 55-27 with 12 minutes, 38 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Varner played for the University of Northern Iowa and was a Barnstormers rookie and defensive MVP last season.

The Ottumwa, Iowa, native drew an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty after his touchdown, which helped Iowa (2-5) briefly crawl back into contention.

Touchdown passes from the Barnstormers' Brad Banks bookended a Vena interception, trimming the Soul's lead to 55-40 entering the fourth quarter.

Iowa got no closer.

Vena regrouped after the pick, engineering a three-play, 46-yard touchdown drive capped by his third end-zone connection with Keith Stokes.

"He does a heck of a job coming back to the ball when I scramble around," Vena said. "We've worked a lot after practice, and with Justin, as well. Stokes puts in the extra work, and that's showing."

While Vena, Stokes, and Newton shined on offense, the Soul's defense had a season-high four takeaways.

Jeffrey Fitzgerald and DeJuan Alfonzo each scooped up a fumble.