After almost two months of preparation and waiting, the Salt Lake Stallions finally started their season. But it wasn’t the start to the season for which the Stallions hoped.
The Stallions (0-1) lost their first game of the inaugural Alliance of American Football, 38-22, to the Arizona Hotshots (1-0).
In a portion of the season where teams are usually stronger with their defense than their offense, Salt Lake provided little of either Sunday night, particularly in the second half.
After trailing 19-16 at the half, the Stallions gave up another 19 points to Arizona in the second half, but only scored six. Salt Lake committed three turnovers in the game, none more crucial than the interception thrown by backup quarterback Matt Linehan in the third quarter. The ensuing Hotshots possession resulted in a touchdown, 2-point conversion and a 35-16 lead.
Linehan entered the game in the third quarter for starting quarterback Josh Woodrum, who played the entire first half and tallied 103 yards on 10-of-22 passing with one touchdown and one interception. Woodrum did not return for the second half due to a left hamstring injury.
Linehan finished the game 7 of 13 for 56 passing yards and a touchdown. Anthony Denham, a former Ute, was the top receiver for the Stallions with 59 yards on five catches. Branden Oliver and Joel Bouagnon combined for 79 of Salt Lake’s 88 total rushing yards.
The Hotshots scored the first touchdown with 1:03 remaining in the first quarter, which saw punt after punt before that scoring drive. Tight end Gerald Christian caught the TD pass from John Wolford.
The Stallions answered on the very next drive and tied the game 8-8 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Matt Asiata, a former player for the University of Utah. But Arizona scored, then converted a field goal to take a 19-8 lead before Woodrum connected with wide receiver Jordan Leslie to cut the deficit to just 19-16 with 13 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Hotshots dominated offensively for the entire game despite the close halftime score. Arizona outgained Salt Lake 416-240.
Wolford completed 18 of 29 passes for 275 yards for the Hotshots, who did most of their damage with plays in the air versus on the ground.
The Stallions will face Birmingham on the road next week before playing their home opener at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Feb. 23 for a rematch against Arizona.