Blaze Seek Redemption on the Road
SALT LAKE CITY – Following an off week, the Utah Blaze (10-5) once again take to the turf to battle the division-leading Arizona Rattlers (12-3) at the US Airways Center on Friday, July 6th. Utah is seeking vengeance after the Rattlers handed the Blaze an 86-70 loss during a Week 11 matchup. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 PM MT.
In their last contest, the Blaze overwhelmed the Georgia Force en route to a 61-38 victory during Week 16. Utah is in second place in the West Division of the National Conference, holding possession of the third seed in the playoff race. Meanwhile, Arizona is in first place in the West with the second-best overall record in the AFL. The Rattlers remain the top playoff seed in the National Conference after defeating the Spokane Shock in Week 17, 61-35.
The high-powered Blaze offense was plagued by mistakes the last time they faced the Rattlers, but still managed to put 70 points on the board despite five turnovers. Since that point, record-setting QB Tommy Grady has thrown 38 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions while completing 75.8 percent of his attempts. Maintaining that level of efficiency will be critical in coming away with a victory this week.
Arizona is allowing 306.5 aerial yards per contest this season to place 16th in the AFL, but boasts the League’s second-best scoring defense, surrendering only 48.9 points per contest. The discrepancy is due to the Rattlers’ ability to force turnovers and play tighter defense near the goal line. Arizona places third with 41 takeaways on the season and employs the AFL’s fifth-ranked red zone defense, allowing opponents to score on just 75.9 percent of red zone opportunities.
“There is no secret as to why Arizona is one of the best teams in the Arena Football League,” said President & Head Coach Ron James. “They have a prolific offense and play exceptional red zone defense. That combination generally leads to success in this league.”
Stopping Arizona is never an easy task, as the Rattlers boast the AFL’s third-ranked total offense (330.5 ypg) and scoring offense (64.1 ppg). Utah surrendered a season-high 86 points to Arizona in Week 11, but that game may have represented a significant turning point for the defense. The Blaze have allowed a mere 46 points per game since that contest, displaying a newfound sense of confidence and energy in the secondary.
Playing a physical game up front is also a crucial factor for the Blaze defense, and Utah will need another strong performance from its defensive line in order to disrupt the timing and rhythm of Rattlers QB Nick Davila. Davila has been sacked just seven times on the season and holds the second-highest passer efficiency rating in the League (127.9). With Utah’s fierce pass rush going head-to-head with Arizona’s strong protection group, the game should feature an absolute dogfight in the trenches.
“Arizona is a very efficient offensive team,” James said. “They rely heavily on short passes and their big wide receivers have the ability to turn those into long gains. It is always difficult to apply pressure on their quarterback because he gets rid of the ball quickly with accuracy. We have to play smart defensively and make the most of our opportunities.”
On the special teams end, kickoff return yards will be hard to come by this week, as both teams feature outstanding coverage units. Arizona ranks atop the AFL charts in kickoff coverage (42.9 net avg), and the Blaze are not far behind at number three (41.9 net avg). The edge may go to the Blaze and WR Shaun Kauleinamoku, who average 18.4 yards per return as a team to place sixth in the AFL.
“Generally speaking, well-coached teams are sound in all phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. Arizona has a strong special teams unit and it will be a challenge to meet their level of excellence on their home turf. The kicking game can be pivotal in a hard fought contest.”
The Utah Blaze vs. Arizona Rattlers will air live on KMYU (Dish/DirecTV channel 12, Comcast channel 22) beginning at 9:00 PM MT, with Mychal Clanton (play-by-play) and Kevin White (color commentary) calling every moment of intense action!
You can also view the game online through the Arena Football League’s exclusive partnership with Ustream, the leader in live and interactive video streaming. Visit www.UTBlaze.com/LIVE to stream the game live and at no cost! Game coverage can be heard in the Salt Lake City area on The Zone 97.5 FM/1280 AM, the radio home of the Utah Blaze.
ABOUT THE BLAZE
The Utah Blaze (10-5) holds possession of the third seed in the National Conference playoff race. The team returns to Tim Dahle Field at EnergySolutions Arena on Friday, July 13th to take on the Cleveland Gladiators in an NFL Network matchup. Tickets for the nationally-televised game are still available for purchase by calling 1-888-99BLAZE, or online at www.utblaze.com. Follow the Utah Blaze on Facebook (facebook.com/utahblaze) and Twitter (@utblaze) for all the latest news and updates.