Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 12:14 PM
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Blaze knocked off the American Conference-leading Jacksonville Sharks on Saturday night, earning a 62-55 victory in front of a nationally-televised audience at EnergySolutions Arena.
Making the first start of his Arena Football League career, quarterback Jason Boltus threw for 240 yards and seven touchdowns while adding 31 yards and another score on the ground.
Improving to 5-7 overall, the Blaze also kept their playoff hopes simmering as Spokane and San Jose lost their games.
Utah set the tone from the start as defensive back Josh Ferguson returned the opening kickoff 48 yards to the opponent’s goal line. On the next play from scrimmage, Boltus punched it in from a yard out by way of a quarterback sneak.
Jacksonville’s offense took the field for the ensuing drive, but was quickly turned away by a stout Blaze defense. Utah held the Sharks to four-and-out and Boltus fired a nine-yard touchdown pass to AJ Jackson to give the Blaze an early 14-0 lead.
The Sharks finally answered on the following series, as quarterback Kyle Rowley tossed a 31-yard score to Jeron Harvey. Boltus would need just three plays to once again push the lead to two scores, as he rolled to his right to avoid pressure before launching a 12-yard touchdown to Mario Urrutia.
Rowley connected with Harvey again on the ensuing drive, this time from 18 yards out. But Boltus again responded, this time in dramatic fashion as he bombed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Bell to give the Blaze a 28-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Rowley found Harvey for the third time on the third play of second quarter, but a missed point after attempt gave the Blaze a 28-20 lead. Boltus floated a pass to the end zone on the ensuing drive, but was intercepted by Sharks defensive back Terrance Smith. Utah’s defense quickly answered the call, as defensive end Julian Miller tipped a pass attempt by Rowley and Jack linebacker Tony Tatum came down with the interception.
Four plays later, Chase Deadder took a handoff and barreled over the right side of the goal line for the score.
The Blaze defense once again turned away Rowley and the Sharks on the following drive, holding Jacksonville to four-and-out to give the ball back to Boltus. The Blaze signal caller directed the offense 37 yards, capping off the five-play drive with a 19-yard scoring toss to Braylon Bell to give Utah a 42-20 lead at the end of the second quarter.
Jacksonville opened the scoring in the second half, as Rowley hit London Crawford on a 21-yard touchdown. Utah found the end zone off a three-yard touchdown reception by Deadder, but two unanswered rushing touchdowns by Sharks wide receiver Josh Philpart gave the Blaze a one-score lead midway through the final quarter of action.
Holding a 48-41 advantage, Boltus needed just two plays to reach the end zone as he completed two consecutive passes to Braylon Bell, including a nine-yard touchdown in the left corner of the end zone. Linebacker Matt Marcorelle would cap off the ensuing Jacksonville series with a one-yard touchdown run, giving Utah a 55-48 lead with 1:42 remaining on the clock.
Mario Urrutia came up with another Blaze score with 56 seconds on the clock to push the lead back to two scores. Markee White hauled in a score for the Sharks with just 7.5 seconds remaining on the clock, but the effort proved futile as Utah regained possession and ran out the clock.
David Hyland paced the Blaze defense with seven tackles as the unit came up with four stops on the night. Hyland snared his sixth interception of the season, setting a new franchise record. Linebacker Tony Tatum came up with a 16-yard interception of his own to go along with 5.5 tackles. Luke Black and Lavon McCoy each came up with sacks up front for the Blaze.
Braylon Bell led the receiving corps with 120 yards and three scores on six receptions, while Mario Urrutia came up with eight catches for 62 yards and two touchdowns.
Utah travels to take on the Shock in Week 14 on Friday in Spokane, Wash.
Sign up for e-mail news updates.