PITTSBURGH — The much-anticipated debut of the 2013 Utah Blaze proved to be as good as advertised, as the team routed the Pittsburgh Power, 64-33, in the opening game of the Arena Football League season. The Blaze (1-0) defense forced an astonishing seven turnovers on the night, nearly shutting out the Power (0-1) in the second half.
Utah fullback Ben Stallings scored the first touchdown of 2013, capping off a short drive with a 2-yard touchdown. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson tied the game for Pittsburgh off a 12-yard scoring toss to wide receiver Mike Washington. Utah briefly regained the lead, as quarterback Tommy Grady found rookie wide receiver Mario Urrutia, who eluded a defender on the way to a 35-yard touchdown.
Jefferson hooked up with Washington on a 9-yard scoring completion during the first play of the second quarter, but Utah took over from there. After a deep kickoff return by Brandon Thompkins, Urrutia responded to the Power score with a 17-yard touchdown reception to give the Blaze a 21-14 lead.
The Blaze defense forced its first turnover of the game on the ensuing possession, as defensive end Caesar Rayford sacked Jefferson and forced a fumble at the goal line. Chase Deadder made quick work of the turnover, converting the fumble into points off a one-yard touchdown run to give Utah a 27-14 lead.
On the first play of the ensuing Pittsburgh drive, Jefferson fumbled the exchange from his center and Antwan Marsh scooped up the loose ball and rumbled into the end zone from three yards out to push the score to 34-14.
The Power finally got on the board again during the following drive, as Jefferson lofted a 24-yard touchdown to Christian Wise. Grady connected with L.J. Castile from 18 yards out, then Jefferson found Wise again on a 16-yard touchdown pass to close out the scoring in the first half.
Utah's defense took control of the game in the second half, beginning with an interception by DB David Hyland on the opening drive of the third quarter. During Pittsburgh's next drive Marsh tipped a pass by Jefferson and Maurice Leggett picked it off to set up a one-yard touchdown run by Stallings.
Defensive end Mike Alston accounted for Utah's third consecutive turnover, as he sacked Jefferson deep in Pittsburgh territory and jarred the ball free. The Power recovered the loose ball in the end zone, resulting in a safety for the Blaze. On the ensuing possession, Urrutia made a diving touchdown catch over the boards to increase the Blaze lead to 57-27.
Urrutia added his fourth and final touchdown reception following another turnover on downs by the Power, as he snared a seven-yard touchdown from Grady. Pittsburgh added a final touchdown as time expired to seal the Utah victory, 64-33.
Grady finished the night completing 17-of-33 pass attempts for 190 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Urrutia led the receivers with five receptions for 76 yards and four scores, while Castile snared five balls for 50 yards and one touchdown.
Maurice Leggett led all defenders with seven tackles and added a 33-yard interception return. Mike Alston and Keenan Mace notched 1.5 sacks each while Caesar Rayford posted one solo sack. David Hyland posted two tackles with one interception and two pass breakups.