SALT LAKE CITY - With just 11 seconds left on the clock, defensive back David Hyland broke to his left and deflected a pass attempt on fourth down to secure a 52-48 victory for the Utah Blaze over the division rival Spokane Shock late Saturday at EnergySolutions Arena.
A failed onside kick attempt by the Blaze gave Spokane possession at Utah's 11 yard line with 59 ticks left in the game. After running down the clock to 14 seconds, the Shock went for a game-winning touchdown on fourth-and-four, only be turned away by the Blaze defense. The win marks Utah's second-straight triumph and its first at home this season.
Utah is now 3-3 on the season, dropping Spokane to 5-2. The win is the Blaze's first in 2013.
Reigning MVP quarterback Tommy Grady threw for 329 yards and seven touchdowns on the night, hooking up with wide receiver Mario Urrutia 11 times for a game-high 122 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Aaron Lesue hauled in nine passes for 117 yards and three scores, while L.J. Castile snared five balls for 85 yards and two touchdowns.
Hyland led the way for the Blaze defense with an outstanding effort, notching 6.5 tackles with four pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. Mac linebacker Joe Mortensen logged five tackles with two sacks and a pass breakup and defensive end Caesar Rayford posted one sack with one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Rayford provided a ferocious pass rush during the game's opening possession, pressuring Shock quarterback Erik Meyer into fumbling the football. To complete the defensive effort, Rayford recovered the loose ball for the Blaze and Grady converted the turnover into points, tossing a seven-yard touchdown to Urrutia, who secured the football before toppling over the dasher board wall.
Spokane got its first score off an eight-yard touchdown pass from Meyer to wide receiver Duane Brooks on the ensuing drive, but Utah responded just two plays later as Grady launched a 30-yard score to wide receiver Aaron Lesue, giving the Blaze an early 14-7 lead.
The Shock quickly tied the game off an improbable play on the ensuing kickoff. Utah appeared poised to regain possession after Kyle Brotzman's kickoff bounced off the crossbars and into the open field. However, as Brotzman slowed his stride and waited for the loose ball, Shock defensive back Patrick Stoudamire sprinted through the wash and snatched it out of the air, returning it 30 yards for a touchdown.
Not to be outdone on special teams, Aaron Lesue provided an electric play of his own the following kickoff. After Spokane's kick bounced off the net into a host of bodies in the end zone, Lesue emerged from the crowd and raced 54 yards for a touchdown to regain the lead for the Blaze.
After trading turnovers off a pair of fumbles, Spokane began another possession and drove to Utah's red zone only to be turned away scoreless. The Blaze defense forced Spokane into fourth-and-long and Shock kicker Kenny Spencer missed a 36-yard field goal on the play. On the ensuing drive, Grady avoided heavy pressure and loft the football to end zone. Waiting on the other end was Lesue, who finished off the drive with a diving touchdown reception worthy of any highlight reel.
Spokane got the final word of the second quarter, as wide receiver Adron Tennell hauled in a 14-yard touchdown reception to close out the first half scoring. Utah took a 27-21 lead into the locker room at the midway point.
Utah came sprinting out of the gates to start the second half, as Grady fired a pass to wide receiver L.J. Castile, who broke a tackle and rumbled 46 yards to the end zone to give the Blaze a 33-21 lead. With that pass, Grady etched his name into the record books once again, setting a Utah Blaze franchise record with the 1,018 completion of his career.
The Shock inched closer to the Blaze lead as backup quarterback Arvell Nelson rushed three yards to the end zone for a touchdown to cap a seven-play, 47-yard drive. After a fumbled snap exchange ended Utah's ensuing possession, the Blaze defense answered the call. The Shock drove 39 yards to the three yard line, but Utah executed a stout goal-line stand, denying Spokane on fourth-and-goal to regain possession.
On the ensuing drive, Grady was intercepted on fourth-and-goal by Spokane defensive back Cameron McGlenn, who returned it 17 yards for a touchdown. However, the Blaze offense showed its resiliency on the following possession, as Grady capped off a five-play drive by lofting a 13-yard pass to Urrutia, who made a leaping reception for the score to give the Blaze a 40-34 advantage with 11:22 remaining in the game.
Brotzman's kick went flying off the nets into the arms of defensive back Hyland on the ensuing kickoff, but Grady's pass was intercepted in the end zone on the following play by Shock defensive back Paul Stephens, who returned it 52 yards for a score to give Spokane a 41-40 lead.
Utah needed just three plays to regain the lead, as Castile outmuscled a defender in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown. But a failed onside kick attempt gave the Shock a short field to work with on the ensuing drive and Meyer hit Tennell on a 14-yard score to give the advantage back to Spokane, 48-46.
With one minute remaining in the contest, Utah completed a lengthy seven-play, 48-yard drive that spanned over five minutes. Grady polished off the possession by firing a seven-yard touchdown to Urrutia, who snatched the ball away from a Shock defender for the score.
Utah failed to convert an onside kick following the touchdown, but the Blaze held the Shock to fourth-and-out to secure the victory.
After evening their record to 3-3, the Utah Blaze will head to Phoenix in Week 8 looking to knock off the West Division-leading Arizona Rattlers (6-1).