SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah defensive back David Hyland logged eight tackles, recovered a pair of fumbles, and broke up four passes - including Spokane's final shot at the end zone with 11 seconds left - as the Blaze edged the Shock 52-48 at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday night.
The crucial division win was the first of the season at home for the Blaze and their second consecutive win. According to head coach Ron James, his squad is starting to live up to its potential.
"Since the bye we've been starting to play more like ourselves," James said. "These guys (Spokane) are at the top of their division. We needed to get the win, and we did."
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.
While Grady pulled off the win, concerns over his consistency remain as the Blaze shot-caller threw a pair of costly interceptions, fumbled a snap in the red zone, and made poor decisions when pressured by Spokane's pass rush.
"We'll have to look at the film to find out about the exchange problems," James said. "A lot the throws he was making tonight were under, and with the tall receivers we have, we can't afford to make those types of mistakes."
Wide receiver Aaron Lesue hauled in nine passes for 117 yards and three scores, while L.J. Castile rounded out the Blaze offense corralling five balls for 85 yards and two touchdowns.
Hyland led a Blaze defense that turned in its best performance of the season and anchored a secondary that stymied Shock quarterback Erik Meyer for most of the night. Linebacker Joe Mortensen logged five tackles with two sacks and a pass breakup while defensive end Caesar Rayford posted one sack with one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Meyer finished the night 26-of-39 for 276 yards and a trio of touchdowns for Spokane. His favorite target, Kamar Jorden, finished the night with 112 yards on 10 receptions but failed to find the end zone.
Utah ended the first half up 27-21 after the two teams provided plenty of highlights including consecutive kick-off returns, first from Spokane's Patrich Stoudamire, and followed by Utah's Lesue.
The Blaze didn't waste time starting the second half, as Grady fired a pass to wide receiver Castile, who broke a tackle and rumbled 46 yards to the end zone to give Utah a 33-21 lead on their first possession. With that pass, Grady etched his name into the record books once again, setting a Utah Blaze franchise record with the 1,018th completion of his career.
The Shock countered with a seven-play, 47-yard drive that ended with backup quarterback Arvell Nelson rushing three yards to the end zone.
With Spokane up 48-46, Utah executed a lengthy seven-play, 48-yard drive that spanned five minutes. Grady polished off the possession by firing a seven-yard touchdown to Urrutia.
Down 52-48 with 59 seconds left, Spokane looked poised to pull off the comeback after a failed onside kick attempt by the Blaze gave the Shock possession at Utah's 11-yard line. After running down the clock to 14 seconds, Meyer took a crack at the end zone on fourth-and-four, only be turned away by Hyland.
"I had a feeling he was going to try and get outside of me," Hyland said. "Luckily our D line got a good pass rush where the quarterback couldn't see which gave me time to react and get in front of the ball."
Utah (3-3) heads to Phoenix next Saturday looking to knock off the West Division-leading Arizona Rattlers (6-1) before returning to Salt Lake on May 18 to host the Iowa Barnstormers.