The Utah Blaze travel west tonight for an AFL West divisional matchup with the San Jose SaberCats.
The late-night battle starts at 8:30 p.m. at HP Pavilion Arena.
Utah evened its record to 4-4 last week following a dominant defensive effort against the Iowa Barnstormers that resulted in a 43-34 victory. On the same night, San Jose toppled the Jacksonville Sharks in an out-of-conference matchup, 57-36. Each team will be looking to gain ground in the division, as Utah holds a 1-2 record inside the West while San Jose sits at 0-2.
Following a 2-2 start the season, the San Jose SaberCats jettisoned veteran quarterback Aaron Garcia in favor of Russ Michna. Since making the switch, Michna has led San Jose to four straight victories while completing 68.9 percent of his pass attempts for 949 yards with 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
The SaberCats have become a more efficient group with Michna under center. Last week against the Sharks, San Jose scored on every offensive possession, with exception to the game's final drive, when the team elected to run out the clock. Michna has spread the wealth since his arrival, most often hooking up with wideouts Jason Willis, Huey Whittaker and Fred Williams.
The Blaze defense has come on strong in recent weeks, holding opponents to an average of just 223.3 total offensive yards per game. The unit has put the clamps down on opposing offenses, forcing 19 turnovers over the past four games, including eight turnovers on downs, four interceptions and three fumbles.
Maurice Leggett logged two more interceptions last week against the Barnstormers and now leads the Blaze with five on the season. David Hyland has provided strong coverage in the middle and set a franchise record with six pass breakups in Week 9. Up front, Caesar Rayford has been Utah's most successful pass rusher off the edge, logging six sacks and four forced fumbles on the year.
However, Rayford signed a contract with the Indianapolis Colts Friday.
"Caesar has played an intricate role in this franchise," said Blaze coach Ron James. He is the sixth member of the Blaze to ink an NFL contract during the 2013 season.
Through eight games in 2013, Rayford registered 13.5 tackles with six sacks and seven tackles for loss while adding four forced fumbles, three blocked kicks, three quarterback hurries, two pass breakups and one safety.
Over a four-year career with the Blaze, Rayford set franchise records for sacks (28.5) and tackles for loss (33.5). He is tied for third in Arena Football history with nine blocked kicks and ranks 20th in sacks. Rayford's most successful season came in 2011, when he earned All-Arena honors after posting a career-high with 10 sacks.