Blaze end home slate with thriller

Jul 16 2011 - 10:34pm


SALT LAKE CITY -- Hoping to keep a shred of hope for the postseason, it was do or die for the Utah Blaze as they hosted the league's worst team in the New Orleans Voodoo (3-14) on Saturday night.

While all of New Orleans' wins came on the road, the Voodoo's magic ran out in Salt Lake.

Despite a ferocious effort and a defense that stymied a Blaze offense riddled with injury for three quarters, Utah handed New Orleans a 62-58 loss and kept their AFL playoff hopes alive for one more week.

Turnovers crippled a Utah (8-9) offense that converted just three-of-six third downs and had trouble keeping pace with New Orleans (3-14) in the two team's second meeting since 2008 but a last second touchdown pass from Todd Hammel to Chris Bocage proved to be the difference.

Signed last Thursday after losing their first- and second-string QBs, Hammel, a 17-year AFL veteran, captained the Blaze and threw for five touchdowns on 26-of-39 attempts for 316 yards.

Aaron Lesue was the favorite target of the night and the former Utah State Aggie hauled in 116 yards on 10 catches including a 12-yard touchdown pass from Hammel.

Utah fullback Ben Stallings deliver just 13 yards on five carries and but found the end zone twice. The former Delta State standout's five-yard scamper late in the first quarter earned him the single season rushing touchdown leader title at 14.

It wasn't all roses for the undrafted free agent who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars last year as a crucial first half fumble led to New Orleans quarterback Danny Wimprine hooking up with wide receiver Carlese Franklin for a 28-yard score on the ensuing play.

Despite coming in with the third worst passing offense in the AFL, Wimprine threw for 265 yards on 19-of-34 with one interception and New Orleans was eight-of-nine in the red zone.

AFL all-purpose yards leader PJ Berry logged 101 yards on seven receptions for the Voodoo and returned six kicks for another 144 yards.

Behind most of the second half, Utah's offense found a spark when return man Chris Bocage took Jonathan Ruffin's kickoff 55 yards for his fourth TD return of the year.

Bocage is averaging 21.9 yards per return this season and the score brought the Blaze within seven with five minutes left in the third quarter.

Led by Alfred Phillips's 5.5 tackles, the Blaze defense tightened up midway through the fourth stonewalling a Voodoo drive and forcing a fumble with seven minutes left.

The turnover led to Bocage's second touchdown of the night rushing in from tw yards out. Utah tied the game at 55 after the extra point from Kyle Brotzman.

With eight seconds left Hammel found Bocage in the back of the end zone and hit the receiver from five yards out to give the Blaze a 62-58 lead that held until the horn.

Utah's season finale is slated for next Friday at 5:30 p.m. as they travel to Cleveland to face the Gladiators.

From Around the Web