On paper it looks as lopsided as can be. The 0-5 Utah Blaze, owners of the worst record in the Arena Football League, facing the hottest team around, the 5-0 Philadelphia Soul.
And the game is in Philadelphia.
Still, the Blaze plan on showing up at the Wachovia Spectrum tonight for the 5 p.m. game with the intent of pulling off the season's biggest upset to date.
"We're capable of beating them," said Blaze coach and general manager Danny White. "We just need to play smart and eliminate the mistakes and the turnovers and all those things ... We just need to keep it close and then at the end, anything can happen."
While Utah had narrow losses during the first four weeks of the season, last week's 21-point home setback to the Georgia Force made White re-evaluate how he would do some things. The biggest change White made was letting defensive back coach Hunkie Cooper go. But he also lightened up the team's practice schedule.
The Blaze actually went bowling as a team instead of practicing on Tuesday and then had less intense practices on Wednesday and Thursday than they'd had the previous weeks.
"'Try harder' was the theme after each of the first four weeks," White explained. "After last week's results it was obvious that 'try harder' wasn't working. So we've had a change in thinking and a change in philosophy and looking for a fresh start."
Added Blaze quarterback Joe Germaine, "We only have one way to go and that's up. We've kind of changed the atmosphere a bit, and we've changed some of the things in practice, and hopefully we'll be more rested and ready to go for games."
Actually, this isn't the first time the Blaze have had a five-game losing streak. They had one last season, yet still made the playoffs. The difference was that last year's losing streak was in the middle of the season after the team had gotten off to a 4-1 start.
Still, the Blaze know they have 11 more games remaining and all is not lost just yet.
"We still have a good attitude about things," said Germaine. "There are no feelings that we're out of it or that there is nothing for us to play for. We're just going to act like we're 0-0 and we have a new season, and we'll see what we can do with it."
Philadelphia, meanwhile, has been strong on both sides of the ball. The Soul is second in the league in scoring offense, averaging 66 points per game. It is third in scoring defense, giving up 46.4 points. The Blaze, by comparison, average a healthy 56.8 points on offense but are dead last in the league in total defense, giving up 64 points per outing.
"Philadelphia is a team that doesn't make many mistakes and doesn't beat itself," said White. "We need to do a good job at the line of scrimmage and try to control (receiver) Chris Jackson."
The Soul has used two quarterbacks this season and both have been getting the job done. Tony Graziani was the starter at the beginning of the year before going down with a knee injury in the third game. He's been replaced by veteran Matt D'Orazio, who hasn't missed a beat. D'Orazio, who is expected to start against the Blaze, has the league's second best passer rating.
Jackson, meanwhile, has been the favorite target of both Soul QBs. He leads the league in touchdown receptions with 19, averaging just under four TDs per outing.After today's game, the Blaze will return home before heading back out on the road for a April 12 game against the Los Angeles Avengers.
Blaze on the air
Utah Blaze (0-5) at Philadelphia Soul (5-0)
at the Wachovia Spectrum
Tonight, 5 p.m.
Radio: 1320 AM
E-mail: [email protected]