It was there for the taking, but the Utah Blaze, a franchise struggling with the recent influx of new players and starters, couldn’t give itself a chance in the waning seconds.
Playing in their first home game since being temporarily evicted from EnergySolutions Arena last week, the Blaze had an opportunity to tie the game with less than a minute remaining, but back-to-back botched snaps on third- and fourth-down situations let the air out of a rowdy arena.
The Blaze fell 57-49 Saturday night at home to the San Jose SaberCats, a tough way to end an emotional week for the franchise that turned the drama of the last week into a raucous atmosphere.
Utah coach Ron James said the last fumble is something the team dealt with earlier this season, where the opposing defensive line jumps the snap count, implementing pressure before the ball is hiked.
“Clearly the noseguard jumped the snap count,” he said. “He hit the center before the ball even arrived. We’ve had that in other games … wasn’t called. End of game.”
The loss also eliminated Utah, now at 5-9, from playoff contention for the 2013 AFL season.
“We’ve been inefficient in crunch time,” James said.
It was a disappointing ending for a game in which the Blaze offense avoided turnovers, a problem that has plagued the quarterback position throughout the season. Quarterback Jason Boltus, making his third career AFL start, threw for 306 yards and seven touchdowns. Rookie wideout Mario Urrutia had another dominant outing with 116 yards and three touchdowns while Anthony Jackson had three sensational end-zone snags.
But the game will be remembered for the two fumbled snaps, a game that cemented the tumultuous season for the Utah Blaze as the franchise will not be playing playoff football once the final week of the regular season ends.
When asked if this was the most disheartening loss in a season full of last-second losses, James shrugged his shoulders.
“It’s right up there because of what we preach all the time is having an opportunity to win and we had an opportunity to at least tie the game or possibly win the football game and the fact that we weren’t able to do that in scoring position is kind of systematic of where we’ve been offensively all year long,” he said.
SaberCats 57, Blaze 49
R Back-to-back botched snaps doom the Blaze’s potential game-tying drive in the final minute.
• Rookie wideout Mario Urrutia has 116 receiving yards with three TDs for Utah.