SALT LAKE CITY -- Execution and discipline were emphasized a lot throughout the week as the Utah Blaze prepared for Saturday's AFL matchup with the Tampa Bay Storm.
Turnovers and miscues plagued Utah (1-1) last Friday as the team fell at home 77-49 to division rival Arizona. On the same weekend, Tampa Bay (1-1) notched a 69-47 victory over the Cleveland Gladiators behind a 10-touchdown performance by Storm quarterback Adrian McPherson.
The teams meet at 8 p.m. at EnergySolutions Arena.
Tampa's offense is predicated on the dual-threat ability of McPherson, who is as talented with his legs as he is with his arm. Through two games, McPherson has thrown for 580 yards and 10 touchdowns while adding 89 yards and seven more scores on the ground.
The task of stopping McPherson will require a disciplined performance by the Blaze defensive front, as the group must pressure the quarterback while also containing his scrambling ability. Utah's front four failed to get to the passer last week against Arizona, but notched four sacks the previous game against another dual-threat quarterback in Pittsburgh's Jordan Jefferson.
Utah's secondary unit ranks third in the Arena Football League having allowed an average of just 224 passing yards per game. Defensive backs David Hyland and Maurice Leggett have accounted for four turnovers as each player has notched two interceptions on the year. Their main assignment will be shutting down big-bodied wideouts Greg Ellingson and Joe Hills.
Against the Rattlers, Blaze quarterback Tommy Grady struggled to get in sync with a new group of young receivers and ended the night with five interceptions.
However, that could all change this week with the reinsertion of first-team All-Arena wideout Aaron Lesue. Although his return is still questionable, Lesue would give Grady a legitimate go-to target.
One of the bright spots on offense in last week's outing was the Blaze offensive line. The combination of tight end Yoshi Hardrick, guard Shannon Tevaga, center Antonio Narcisse and fullback Ben Stallings consistently stifled the pass rush of a strong Arizona front, providing a clean pocket throughout much of the night.