TEMPE, Ariz. — From costly turnovers to giving up big plays to a key injury, too many things went wrong for the Salt Lake Stallions as they lost to the Arizona Hotshots 38-22 Sunday night in the first game for both teams during the opening weekend for the first-year Alliance of American Football.
The Stallions never led in falling to the Hotshots at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. Salt Lake did, however, get scores from a pair of Utah ties, as a former Ute and a former Cougar scored the first two touchdowns for the Stallions.
Arizona turned three Salt Lake turnovers into 16 points, both scores coming on one-play drives. That included a 30-yard touchdown pass from John Wolford to Jhurell Pressley one play after Steve Johnson intercepted a Matt Linehan pass in the third quarter.
The Pressley touchdown came moments after a Rashad Ross 4-yard touchdown grab, as Arizona quickly turned its 19-16 lead into a 35-16 edge, and while Salt Lake later added a touchdown, it never seriously challenged the Hotshots again.
After both teams struggled to get going offensively early, Arizona used a 95-yard touchdown drive to get on the board and go ahead 8-0 with a two-point conversion, which are mandatory in the Alliance. The drive included Wolford — who threw for 275 yards and four touchdowns — hitting Ross for a 31-yard gain, and Pressley rushing for 25 yards on a play that set up a first and goal.
Former Utah running back Matt Asiata had the perfect answer to Arizona’s score, capping a 75-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. With their own two-point conversion, the Stallions tied the game at 8-8.
The turning point came later in the quarter, when Salt Lake punt returner De’Mornay Pierson-El muffed a punt and Arizona recovered. Wolford completed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Ross on the next play for the quick score. Ross had five receptions for 103 yards in the game.
The Hotshots added a field goal before the Stallions responded with a touchdown late in the first half. Salt Lake starting quarterback Josh Woodrum found former BYU wide receiver Jordan Leslie for a 2-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds to go until halftime, making it a 19-16 game heading into the break.
Woodrum hurt his hamstring during the drive, though, and did not return in the second half. Linehan replaced him, and the duo combined to complete under 50 percent of their passes while throwing a pair of interceptions.
Salt Lake returns to action next Saturday at Birmingham in a noon MST kick.