Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — It's official. The Utah Blaze are a "force" to be reckoned with.
On a night to be remembered, Blaze quarterback Tommy Grady established a new AFL single-season record with 118 touchdown passes, while Utah set the all-time franchise record for wins in its 61-38 drubbing of the American Conference South Division-leading Georgia Force for its fourth consecutive victory at EnergySolutions Arena Saturday.
Grady finished 25-for-28 through the air for 306 yards and eight touchdowns to surpass the record of 117 scores in one season set in 2007 by Chris Griesen.
"It was fun. They told me I was coming out a game 'cause there was a minute left but they put me in," said Grady.
The record breaking pass came with 14 seconds remaining after Georgia failed an attempted onside kick, on a 14-yard pass to Jeremy Kelley.
"I was actually surprised he was so wide open," Grady said about the final play. "It was exciting. It really is a whole offensive award. It's pretty big — the league has been goin' for 25-years. It's a big accomplishment for me and the whole offense."
Utah coach Ron James, a 27-year coaching veteran, labeled Grady as one of the premier signal callers he's ever coached.
"Just, 'congratulations — you've worked hard,'" James said when asked what was exchanged between the two after the touchdown. "He always does. I'm proud of that, I've had some great quarterbacks in the past and I put Tommy physically in that same realm.
"I think it's significant for our fans 'cause they could witness history being made in two different situations. They witnessed Blaze history with us winning our 10th game, and I wanted them to witness AFL history and be a part of that with Tommy's touchdown throw."
It was another complete outing for the Blaze. In the four-game win streak, Utah has limited opponents to 41.5 point per game — the lowest in the AFL while displaying the most productive offense in the league, too.
"We've won four in a row before, so the mission is to try and get the fifth one," James said. "The real thing is when we played tonight against a Georgia team that's atop their division playing with a quarterback in his first start — we should be able to win that football game. We took care of business."
Utah imposed its will on Georgia early. The Force, with recently signed quarterback Bryant Moniz under center, opened the first possession empty handed.
The Blaze (10-5) quickly capitalized and took the 6-0 lead on Ben Stallings' 3-yard run.
However, the missed PAT attempt allowed Georgia (7-8) to take the 7-6 lead after the first 15-minutes on a 1-yard pass from Moniz to Michael Johnson after a 10-play, 48-yard drive soaked up 6:22 minutes.
With 6:15 remaining in the first half, Kelley snagged a 26-yard crossing route TD from Tommy Grady, sidestepping a would-be tackler to give the Blaze the 20-10 lead.
That's when the Blaze blew the gates wide open.
Utah emphatically extended the lead to 27-10 with 18.1 seconds left in the first half on a delayed slip screen to Ed Ta'amu. At 6-foot-3, 350 pounds and lining up in an eligible tackle spot, Ta'amu caught the lob with one hand and looking like the boulder in Indiana Jones — imploding two Force defenders on his way to the end-zone.
Utah looked as if it was about to take command on the opening drive of the second half when Tysson Poots hauled in his second touchdown reception of the night — giving the Blaze the 34-10 advantage.
However, Georgia sliced the lead back to 34-24 with 5:18 in the third quarter after two consecutive scoring outings.
The margin would never slip to single digits again, with the game never in question.
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