Utah Blaze stifle Talons' rally, advance to National Conference Championship
SAN ANTONIO — Utah fans will forever remember the Alamodome as the site in which the Blaze (13-6) held their ground to earn a victory over the top-seeded San Antonio Talons (14-5). In front of a hostile crowd of more than 9,000, the Blaze secured the first playoff win in franchise history to advance to the Arena Football League's National Conference Championship.
Typically known for its high-powered offense, Utah received a game-changing boost from its troops on the other side of the ball. San Antonio quickly built a 20-7 lead in the first quarter before the Blaze defense dug its feet into the turf and stonewalled veteran AFL QB Aaron Garcia and the Talons offense.
Utah gained a 35-20 advantage with 4:26 remaining in the third, but the Talons rallied.
San Antonio needed just three yards to take the lead in the waning moments of the contest. On the night of his 26th birthday, it was linebacker Joe Mortensen who became the game's deciding factor.
On the snap of the football, Mortensen unleashed a blitz and exploded through the gap. The linebacker flew through the protection untouched and dropped Garcia for a five-yard sack. Utah took over on downs, and ran out the clock to secure the 35-34 win.
After earning its first playoff victory, Utah now sits just one game away from ArenaBowl XXV. The Blaze will hit the road next weekend for the National Conference Championship, taking on the winner of the Arizona Rattlers-San Jose SaberCats matchup. Arizona and San Jose play tonight, with kickoff scheduled for 8 p.m.
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