SALT LAKE CITY — It was another win for Utah and another pair of records for quarterback Tommy Grady as the Blaze logged a 83-63 victory over the Cleveland Gladiators at EnergySolutions Arena on Friday night.
In front of 13,083 fans and a national television audience, Grady picked up the single-season record for passing completions (483) and the Blaze single-game touchdown passing record (12). All the while keeping Utah’s division title bid alive (and ending Cleveland’s postseason chances) after throwing for 291 yards on 25 completions.
“It really speaks to the fact that our offense is firing on all cylinders at this point,” Utah team owner and coach Ron James said. “Tonight was a great win because it just keeps the momentum moving forward and that’s really what we wanted to accomplish.”
Despite having the second best pass defense in the league (237.0 yards per game), Cleveland couldn’t stop the most potent passing attack in the AFL as Utah moved the ball at will.
The Blaze have posted over 60 points in six of their last eight contests and wide out Tysson Poots has tallied 73 receptions for 719 yards and 24 touchdowns over the past six games, including five touchdowns and 110 yards on 11 catches during Friday’s game.
Utah’s Aaron Lesue chipped in 109 yards and a trio of TDs on seven catches.
Matt Bassuener took the reins of the Cleveland offense on Friday after the Gladiators pulled 12-year AFL veteran QB John Dutton during last week’s game at Orlando.
The second-year shot-caller from Georgetown went 25-of-39 on the night with 294 yards and Bassuener’s favorite target, wide receiver Dominic Goodman, pulled in 12 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Wide out Carlese Franklin logged 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns on seven receptions.
Utah took a 21-point lead midway through the second quarter after capitalizing on back-to-back kickoff recoveries and held a 41-21 lead into the break.
Utah’s defense wasn’t as dominant as it has been lately, giving up 319 total yards, but constantly pressured Bassuener, sacking him three times.
Cleveland found a footing late in the third quarter as linebacker Maurice Williams picked off a Grady pass at the Utah 15 and took it back to the end zone, cutting the Blaze lead to 13. Cleveland recovered the ensuing kickoff and scored again making it 55-49 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Grady countered with a 24-yard TD pass to Lesue and Utah recovered yet another kickoff that led to a 1-yard TD pass from Grady to Poots.
“It takes a lot of things to happen right,” Grady said. “We got ahead of them so they had to onside kick a lot. We had the ball inside the 10 a lot and we were able to get the touchdowns.”
Utah (12-5) will travel to Philadelphia for a Sunday afternoon game with the Soul on July 22 before their division playoff match with the Arizona Rattlers, tentatively scheduled for July 28 at ESA.