Arena football: Utah Blaze pull a victory out of the fire
SALT LAKE CITY — Everything pointed to the Utah Blaze sustaining their second consecutive loss at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday night.
They had lost six straight to divisional powerhouse San Jose and their receiving corps had been gashed with injuries.
All that was put to shame after Utah's Caesar Rayford blocked a game-tying PAT attempt with seconds remaining to capture a nail-biting 76-68 victory..
"Basically everyone was going to the left — it was isolation for me," Rayford said. "I just had it in my mind 'You know what? I'm gonna take them up field and spin under it' cause I was tryin' to hoop them all day and they just opened up and there's the play."
Utah was forced to play without its two best receivers after Aaron Boone underwent season-ending knee surgery on Friday and Aaron Lesue suffered an ankle injury.
However, the league's No. 1 offense didn't stutter with the play of Ernie Pierce and newly signed Chris Bocage.
The tandem teamed up for 16 receptions, 211 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns.
"Ernie kind of stepped up into Aaron (Boone's) role and so we knew we weren't gonna miss a beat cause he's been playing with us," said Blaze coach Ron James. "Getting Chris Bocage during the week was huge for us — he had like Aaron Lesue's role, same type of guy — speedy, great hands and he made some big plays for us."
Bocage, who spent two years in the af2, played his first AFL game with less than a week of practice.
"I just wanted to come out with a chance to compete. Coach gave me an opportunity to come in here and help this team," said Bocage. "That's all I want to do is help the team and make plays. I was able to do that tonight, Tommy got me the ball.
"Honestly, I expect that. I'm here to make plays — that's what Coach brought me in to do. Help this team and be more productive. I've had games like that in the past and I expect that. I expect to perform every week. That's just normal."
The two teams would combine for six lead changes in the final two quarters.
With the Blaze leading 56-55 in the fourth quarter, Utah's Brandon Taylor read the San Jose fourth-down screen attempt perfectly and undercut Adam Juratovac's legs from under him to stop the SaberCats on downs.
Two plays later, Utah quarterback Tommy Grady lofted a floater to Jason Boone, who snagged a one-handed reception for six points. However, the ensuing PAT was blocked, leaving the score 62-55.
San Jose responded quickly and culminated a long drive when Mark Grieb found Ben Nelson for his third TD of the game.
Alvance Robinson eventually gave the Blaze a 69-62 lead on the following drive.
However, Utah was unable to stop the Grieb-to-Nelson connection, once again leading to another San Jose score. With overtime lurking, Rayford busted through the line and blocked the PAT to seal the Blaze win.
Grady later added another score after jogging into the end zone untouched as time expired.
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