SALT LAKE CITY — The Arizona Rattlers are kryptonite if you ask Utah; and quarterback Nick Davila is the "Cruella Davila" to the Blaze Disney movie.
It's becoming a reoccurring event on the yearly calendar, as Utah was, once again, simply outmatched and plagued by costly turnovers in its 86-70 defeat — the fifth consecutive loss to Arizona dating back to 2008.
"We've put two substandard performances in a row against the upper echelon teams in this league — that says it all," Utah coach Ron James said. "Right now we are not playing at that level. We didn't play a lick of defense — I don't know what the take away is there."
The series hasn't been close, honestly. Arizona, the defending National League champions, has outscored the Blaze (270-176) during the five game futility.
Slow starts have been the curse for Utah against the Rattlers and nothing changed Saturday at Energy-Solutions Arena.
On the opening drive, Blaze quarterback Tommy Grady coughed up possession after his arm was swatted during backdrop. Three plays following the fumble, Arizona took the 7-0 lead on a seven-yard strike from Davila to Kerry Reed.
Fortunes failed to reverse on the ensuing drive. Grady, while evading massive pressure from Arizona's defensive front, sailed a misguided pass that Arkeith Brown jumped for another turnover.
Davila, the reigning AFL MVP, made quick work with the short field to extend the lead to 14-0.
Davila finished with 22-for-30 for 372 yards and 11 touchdowns, passing for 202 yards and six touchdowns in the first half alone. Utah had no answer for the Davila-Maurice Purify tandem. Purify, the 2011 Rookie of the Year, exploded for 10 receptions for 196 yards and seven scores.
With eight games remaining in the regular season, Utah currently trails Arizona and San Antonio in the wild card race with the Talons invading Salt Lake next week in what now has become a must win for Utah. The Blaze are 0-2 against both teams thus far.Comment on this story
Facing the two touchdown deficit, Utah traded scores with the Rattlers – closing the gap to the smallest margin at 41-34 with 2:29 remaining in the first half on Alvance Robinson's 56-yard kick return.
Leading 44-34 on the opening possession in the third quarter, Purify hauled in a dump pass with a load of steam, mowing over a would-be defender deep into Utah territory. The ensuing play, Purify found a corner cushion — putting the game out of reach at 51-34.
"They're disappointed, a little bit of shock," James said of the Utah locker room. "The message to the team was simple — we're going to play our smartest players all the way through. And if you're not one of those players you're not going to see the field."