SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Sports) – Needing a win to take control of their playoff destiny, the Utah Blaze (8-5) made a statement by crushing the Chicago Rush (7-6) in front of 7,077 fans at EnergySolutions Arena. With a 68-28 victory, Utah claimed possession of the fourth playoff spot in the National Conference postseason race.
Saturday’s win undoubtedly marked Utah’s most complete performance of the season, as the Blaze delivered outstanding efforts in all three phases of the game.
The defense was defined by sheer dominance, as the unit forced four takeaways with three stops on downs and one interception. Chicago managed 172 yards through the air while QB Russ Michna – who entered the game as the AFL’s most efficient passer – completed just 56 percent of his attempts with two touchdowns. The Blaze allowed just 28 points to the Rush, which is the second-best mark in franchise history.
The offense efficiently picked apart Chicago’s defense throughout the night, scoring on every possession with exception to one that was cut short due to the end of the half. QB Tommy Grady became the first player in the Arena Football League to reach 100 passing touchdowns this season, totaling 366 yards and seven scores on the night. Utah’s 40-point margin of victory is also the second-highest in Blaze history.
Even the special teams unit provided a game-changing effort. K Kyle Brotzman bounced a kickoff off the uprights in the second quarter. The ball launched off the iron into the arms of JLB Antwan Marsh, who returned it one yard into the end zone for a score. The Blaze also earned an extra possession to close out the first half by recovering an onside kick.
WR Tysson Poots led all receivers with 12 receptions for 130 yards and three touchdowns. WR Aaron Lesue grabbed three scores of his own, as he totaled seven catches for 102 yards. On the ground, FB Ben Stallings rumbled for 26 yards and two touchdowns.
DB David Hyland led Utah’s defenders with 6.5 total tackles and two pass breakups. DB Will Mulder notched his first interception of the season in the fourth quarter, while DL Mike Lewis notched a two-yard sack – his 10th of the year.
Utah hits the road next week to take on the Spokane Shock at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. The two teams previously faced off in Week 9, when Utah emerged with an 84-63 victory.