Blaze endure turnover-filled loss
By GENTRY REINHART
SALT LAKE CITY -- It may not have involved poking dolls with pins, but whatever the New Orleans Voodoo did to the Utah secondary sure worked.
A winless New Orleans, led by quarterback Kurt Rocco's 373 passing yards and Greg Ellingson's four touchdowns and 167 yards on 11 catches, escaped Tim Dahle Field and Energy Solutions Arena with a 72-57 win on Saturday night in front of 10,078.
Utah struggled to find any kind of momentum handing over the ball seven times, including five interceptions.
"We did it to ourselves," Utah coach Ron James said. "You won't win in any league if you turn the ball over that many times. And defensively we just gave up too many big plays downfield."
New Orleans took a 20-14 lead early in the second quarter as Rocco hooked up with Greg Ellingson from 40 yards out following a Tommy Grady interception.
After another Utah turnover Rocco hit Ellingson again, this time for a 19-yard strike that extended the New Orleans lead to 13.
Down 34-22 late in the second quarter Utah put together a big drive ending when 6-foot-2, 305 pound Michael Ward rumbled in from a yard out to cut the New Orleans lead to six before the half.
Despite the offensive troubles turning the ball over, special team return man Chris Bocage kept Utah in good field position in the first half returning four kick for 117 yards including a 41-yard scamper than was one man away from reaching the end zone. Bocage led the team with 176 all-purpose yards while Ernie Pierce scored four touchdowns and logged 124 yards on seven catches.
The New Orelans secondary kept Utah wide out Aaron Lesue in check giving up just five catches for 56 yards just a week after Lesue picked up AFL offensive player of the week honors after scoring four touchdowns against San Jose.
Leading the league in sacks (12 for 71 yards) coming into Saturday's game, Utah logged four on the night including a big safety courtesy of Mike Lewis mid-way through the third quarter.
Down 54-44 early in the fourth Grady demonstrated one big difference between Arena Football and its traditional counterpart as he tripped and fell taking a snap then pushed himself to his knees and threw a strike to a wide-open Lesue camped in the back of the end zone.
"Most of the decisions I made were the right I just couldn't put the ball where I needed to put it," Grady said of his overall performance. "The reads were good, just the throws were bad."
After another New Orleans score Grady pulled Utah back within three hitting Ernie Pierce for the game's longest score at 45 yards but the Voodoo offense keep pressing and logged the last two scores of the game picking up their first win of the season.
Utah (2-2) gets the week off before going on the road to face the Jacksonville Sharks (1-2) on April 13.