The Salt Lake Stallions will have to wait at least another week to try to pick up the franchise's first victory.
Special teams miscues and a struggling offense were too much to overcome a strong defensive performance as the Stallions lost 12-9 to the Birmingham Iron on Saturday at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.
Salt Lake dropped to 0-2 in the debut season of the Alliance of American Football despite taking a 9-0 lead into halftime against the now 2-0 Iron.
In the second half, the Stallions — mainly behind a rushing attack that racked up 151 yards — moved into field goal range four times. Taylor Bertolet's 48-yard field goal attempt was wide left, though, with 59 seconds to play. It was his third miss of the second half, sealing the win for Birmingham.
“You can’t keep giving them chances and chances. Eventually things aren’t going to work out for you. That’s exactly what happened. They hung in there, we didn’t take advantage of it, and they made plays in the end," Salt Lake head coach Dennis Erickson said in his postgame press conference.
Salt Lake's other field goal attempt in the second half was foiled by a low snap after the Stallions drove inside the Iron's 10-yard line. Salt Lake scored on just one of its three red-zone appearances in the game.
Birmingham, meanwhile, rallied behind a pair of second-half touchdowns. The first came with 2:23 left in the third quarter, when Birmingham's Jamar Summers stripped the Stallions' De'Mornay Pierson-El on a punt return and, after the ball bounced back 20-plus yards into the end zone, the Iron's Shaheed Salmon recovered the ball for the score.
The Iron then took the lead with 4:40 to play with a momentum-seizing 11-play, 54-yard drive that was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by former NFL first-round draft pick Trent Richardson.
Both times Salt Lake stopped the Iron's two-point conversion attempt — there are no extra points in the Alliance — but it still wasn't enough for a Stallions offense that too often bogged down.
Austin Allen, who was inactive in Week 1, got the start at quarterback for Salt Lake for an injured Josh Woodrum. He completed 15 of 31 passes for 114 yards, but the Stallions struggled to extend drives on third down, converting just 3 of 14.
Despite those struggles, the Stallions turned a pair of Birmingham mistakes into scores in the second quarter. Salt Lake took its first lead in franchise history, scoring on a 3-yard Joel Bouagnon touchdown with 1:56 until halftime, after recovering a muffed punt by the Iron.
Less than a minute later, Birmingham tried a fake punt on fourth-and-1 at its own 34, but the Stallions' Karter Schult stopped the Iron's Jacob Hagen for no gain. Four plays later, Bertolet hit a 53-yard field goal.
One week after giving up 38 points in Salt Lake's season-opening loss to Arizona, the Stallions defense routinely stepped up Saturday. Salt Lake held the Birmingham offense to 216 yards of total offense, 40 fewer than the Stallions' offense. That included a 2.2 yards-per-carry average for the Iron, led by 41 yards from Richardson.Comment on this story
Schult had two of Salt Lake's three sacks and also accounted for six tackles, four quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. Former Utah linebackers Gionni Paul (team-high 12 tackles and a half-sack) and Trevor Reilly (six tackles, one pass deflection, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery) also made several key plays for the Stallions' defense.
“I thought we played better on defense, and we ran the football better. But that’s it," Erickson said. "In the red zone last week, we were pretty good. This week, we weren’t very good.”
Salt Lake will head to Utah next Saturday for its inaugural home opener, at 1 p.m. MST against the Arizona Hotshots at Rice-Eccles Stadium.