VooDoo’s Courtney Smith slows things down to find success

NEW ORLEANS — Receiver Courtney Smith has proved to be one of the VooDoo’s top playmakers during a trying offensive season.

How? He stopped running so fast.

Indoor playing fields, he’s learned, aren’t as forgiving as the outdoor versions he grew up learning the sport. And, the playing fields in the Arena Football League are only 50 yards long, so Smith has learned to adjust the depth of his routes.

The result has Smith, now in his second season with the VooDoo, tied with fellow receiver Derek Lee for the team lead with seven touchdown receptions. Smith has played in five games in 2013.

Smith also leads the VooDoo with 68.4 receiving yards per game, no easy task as the VooDoo (1-5), losers of five consecutive games, have suffered a rash of injuries this season, including at quarterback. During last Saturday’s 63-32 los at the Tampa Bay Storm, Bill Stull became the third quarterback to start a game for the VooDoo this season.

“I pretty much just try to focus in on what I have to do to make our team better, help my teammates along,” said Smith, who has 29 catches for 342 yards. “I know we’ve been struggling for the last five games. But it’s a long season, and things don’t always start off how you want them to.

“It’s tough. We’re having a change of quarterbacks. We really don’t have enough time to work with them, but we’re working with what we have. Once the ball is in the air, it’s our job to catch it, make a play, score.”

On Saturday, the VooDoo travel to play the the Iowa Barnstormers (3-4). On March 30, the Barnstormers beat the VooDoo 48-34 at the New Orleans Arena.

Smith will likely find it a challenge to increase his scoring streak. The Iowa defense ranks second in the Arena Football League, allowing just 47.9 points per game.

By comparison, the VooDoo defense is allowing 55.8 points per game.

Scoring struggles

The VooDoo has endured three losses by 19 or more points. The offense is averaging 38 points per game this season, ranked 13th out of 14 teams. While the VooDoo scored a season-high during the 51-45 overtime win against the Orlando Predators in the season opener, the offense has failed to score more than 43 in each of its last five games.

Scoring issues, though, are not all to blame on the offense. Placekicker Gary Cismesia has made two of seven field goals this season, which includes missing all five attempts from 30 or more yards.

Rocco’s return nears

Quarterback Kurt Rocco said he does not expect to return to practice in time for Saturday’s game. Rocco, the starter to open the season, suffered a medial collateral ligament strain in his left knee during a 46-43 loss to the Pittsburgh Power on March 30.

Rocco is aiming to return in two weeks when the VooDoo returns home to play Chicago.