After two frustrating losses to open the Arena Football League season, a win tonight could do wonders for the Utah Blaze.

But the same can be said for the Orlando Predators.

One team will get back on track tonight, while the other will be in an 0-3 hole.

Still, Blaze coach Danny White isn't ready to say tonight is a do-or-die game. After all, there are 16 games in the regular season, and a 7-9 mark will probably be good enough to get a team into the playoffs.

"It's still pretty early to call it (a must-win game)," said Blaze coach Danny White. "I've seen teams come back from worse."

Just the same, getting that first victory of the season will be big, White says.

"The most important thing to happen for us now is to win," said White. "That's kind of the final ingredient, that's the yeast, to make this bread rise. If we can win a game together, we could very easily go on a pretty good roll, once we get a little confidence under our belts."

Utah has been close in both games, losing the opener by one point at home against Arizona and on Sunday at Cleveland by three points. In both games the Blaze had the ball in the final seconds with the chance to get a last-second victory, only to come up short.

Gary Horton, a scout who writes for Scouts Inc. and ESPN.com, certainly isn't impressed with what he had seen from the Blaze so far, though. He ranks the 17 AFL teams each week and currently has the Blaze dead last, at No. 17, even though there are five other winless teams in the league right now.

The Blaze have given up 129 points in two games, the second-most in the league. Utah spent money in the offseason to get veteran pass rushers in E.J. Burt and Dwayne Missouri, who missed the Cleveland game with a sore shoulder. So far, however, the Blaze haven't had much success putting pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.

"Our secondary has got to find a way to slow the receivers down a little bit on their routes so that our pass rush can get there," said White, who pointed out that Cleveland quarterback Raymond Philyaw was getting rid of the ball in 1.5 to 2 seconds on Sunday.

While the defense has been giving up too many points, the Blaze offense can take some of the blame for the slow start as well. Utah has five turnovers through two games.

"The turnovers have killed us," said White.

The good news is that Joe Germaine now has four solid receivers to throw to in Aaron Boone, Tom Pace, Huey Whittaker and J.J. McKelvey. Pace has been hobbled by a sore knee, however.

The Predators have a strong offense as well, led by quarterback Shane Stafford, who is second in the league in passing yardage. Orlando wide receiver T.T. Toliver is leading the AFL in receiving yardage and is second in the league in scoring.

Following tonight's game, the Blaze will return home for back-to-back games at EnergySolutions Arena, on March 21 against Columbus and March 29 against Georgia.


On the road

Utah Blaze (0-2) at Orlando Predators (0-2)

Today, 5:30 p.m.

TV: none

Radio: 1230 AM<


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