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Arena football: Utah Blaze squeak past Iowa


By Tony Jones

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published May 18 2013 11:17PM
Updated Dec 7, 2013 11:32PM

The win wasn’t pretty. The offense sputtered at times. Ball control needs to improve if the Utah Blaze want to have any chance to defeat San Jose next week.

But a Saturday night home game before an animated crowd at EnergySolutions Arena produced a 43-34 victory over the Iowa Barnstormers. And that’s just what the Blaze needed. A win in what was pretty much a must-win scenario.

"This was vital," Utah coach Ron James said. "We can’t be dropping games at home to teams in our conference. We just couldn’t do that. We have a lot of improvements to make. But this was a positive result, and we’re going to take it."

For the Blaze — a team with a normally explosive offense — this win puts them at 4-4 on the season. It gets their record back to even and it gives them momentum heading into a crucial three-game stretch outside of Salt Lake City.

The victory was attained in atypical fashion. The 43 points represents the lowest total of the season for the Blaze. But ball-hawking defense and opportunistic play offset what was an uneven performance from all-league quarterback Tommy Grady.

Maurice Leggett may have been the player of the game, coming up with two interceptions, the last of which foiled Iowa’s final drive of the game. The Blaze also produced a safety, which is big in AFL play because it gives the team two points and possession.

"We didn’t take great care of the ball, and that’s something that I have to clean up," Grady said. "We knew that this was a good team that we were playing against. I thought I made some good throws. I just have to go back and look at the film and see what I can do to improve things."

Through it all, Grady gutted his way to three touchdown passes, although he threw a pair of interceptions. The former Utah quarterback went 20 of 39 through the air for 223 yards. All three of his scoring strikes went to Mario Urrutia, who caught eight passes for 112 yards.

Utah led for most of the game and for all of the second half. Up 29-28, Grady found Urrutia to provide an eight-point cushion. The Blaze were never seriously threatened again.

"I thought Tommy was fine," James said. "He made the plays that he needed to make. We were able to gut this out and get a win, and that’s all that matters.

"Offensively we’re just not as sharp as we need to be. But we were able to put some pressure on them and score some points. We got the win we needed to, but next week is another animal."

tjones@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tjonessltrib

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