Utah Blaze goal is to control Mustang pass rush

Published: Friday, May 13 2011 8:20 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The one constant this year for the Utah Blaze was its performance away from EnergySolutions Arena. All three times Utah ventured away from its home field resulted in a loss.

That trend finally came to an end when the Blaze scored a season-high 74 points in a three-point victory over Georgia last week.

Blaze quarterback Tommy Grady tied a franchise single-game record with 10 touchdown passes, leading to him garnering the AFL's Week 9 MVP award.

"It was great. I mean, they're a great football team at their place and to get a quality road win against a good football team feels good," said Utah coach Ron James. "From a confidence standpoint more than anything else. It's good to get that one, and now we're anxious to get back home to see what we can do here."

Utah (4-3) returns home tonight against the Milwaukee Mustangs (2-6) during a crucial stretch in the season. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

"The next five weeks are critical for us," said James. "We look at a good stretch of home games here, and we have some division opponents coming up — this is not one of them — but they're a good football team despite their record."

The Blaze will try to avenge an ugly 56-55 overtime loss to the then-Milwuakee Iron last season. Utah had a chance to end the game in regulation but a botched snap ultimately led to extra time in which the Iron capitalized on the Blaze mistake.

There are two focal points heading into tonight's game against the Mustangs, the first of which is to contain their highly aggressive pass rush. Although Milwaukee has been searching for wins, the team's struggles are in direct correlation to its offensive production. The Mustangs are ranked highly in multiple defensive statistical categories.

"It's pretty obvious that we have got to maintain control of their pass rush," James said. "If we're able to do that, we've got good receivers; we can make some plays downfield. They're a very good defensive club."

Defensively, Utah will have to stop Damian Harrell's production.

The veteran receiver currently leads the Mustangs with 544 yards, seven touchdowns and 52 receptions. Harrell holds league records for receptions (1,087), yards (14,304), touchdowns (348) and 1,000-yard receiving seasons (9) in his 12-year career.

Utah wideout Aaron Boone, who was contemplating season-ending knee surgery earlier in the year, has continued to play with the team despite the injury.

"He's practicing; we just kind of give him the veteran status. He's been around the game a long time so if he feels that he needs a day here or there, we enable him to have that during the week," said James. "Our priority is to be able to have him on game day, so we're just kind of taking it as a week-to-week situation."

Blaze on the air

Milwaukee (2-6) at Utah (4-3)

Saturday, 7 p.m.

At EnergySolutions Arena

TV: none Radio: 1280 AM, 104.7 FM

Email: tphibbs@desnews.com

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