SALT LAKE CITY — Heading into their fifth game of the Alliance of American Football’s inaugural season, the Salt Lake Stallions are still searching to find consistency, particularly on offense.
Their next chance for improvement comes Saturday, when the Stallions (1-3) travel to San Diego to take on the Fleet (2-2) at SDCCU Stadium at 6 p.m. MST. The game will be televised on NFL Network.
The past three weeks, Salt Lake has sandwiched its lone win — a 23-15 victory over Arizona in the home opener two weeks ago — with a pair of losses to the Alliance's top two teams, Birmingham and Orlando, when the Stallions' offense struggled to capitalize on opportunities.
In the 12-9 loss to the Iron, Salt Lake had more offensive yards (256 to 215) but had seven drives that reached Birmingham territory result in only two scores and three missed field goals.
In last week's 20-11 loss to the Apollos, the Stallions at times moved the ball, but again produced just two scoring drives — a touchdown and a field goal.
"We've got to look and see what we're doing. I think we're doing the right things, it's just a matter of executing,” Salt Lake coach Dennis Erickson said.
The coach also called the game against Orlando "probably our worst effort on defense" as the Apollos put the game away with two second-half touchdown drives and controlled the clock, particularly in the fourth quarter.
“In the second half, we moved the ball pretty good but had trouble slowing them down in the second half,” Erickson said.
A prime example of Salt Lake's struggles came on the team's opening drive against Orlando. Despite moving the ball 64 yards with a balanced mix of runs and passes, the Stallions failed to score on the 13-play drive after a fourth-and-1 run play was stopped for no gain at the Apollos 23-yard line.
Three of Orlando's four sacks in the game came on third-down plays, including one that forced the Stallions to kick a field goal and another that forced a punt in Apollos territory. Salt Lake was just 1 of 9 on third down in the game, and 1 of 3 on fourth down.
“I think we just need to make plays when they’re there," Stallions quarterback Josh Woodrum said. "We’ll get back to the drawing board, get some plays drawn up, get some more shots down the field and make some more plays. That’s the biggest thing. We just have to make them when they’re there.”
Still, Saturday’s game will allow Salt Lake the chance to gain some ground on its fellow Western Conference opponents — San Diego, Arizona and San Antonio, at 2-2, all sit just one game ahead of the Stallions.
"There are two (from each conference) that go to the playoffs, and that is what everyone wants. We’re 1-3, but we’re only a game back. A lot of things can happen in the next six weeks, so you’d better not lay back on your laurels," Erickson said.
The Fleet are dealing with their own questions on offense, after quarterback Philip Nelson was lost for four to six weeks with a broken collarbone in the team's 26-23 loss to Memphis last week.
In to replace him will be former Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici, who started the Fleet's first game but was replaced by Nelson.
“I’ve been a backup in my career before, and in my experience in the preseason in the NFL, whether it was coming in the fourth quarter and trying to evaluate and assess, when your number is called, you have to perform,” Bercovici told Fleet reporter Jeff Goldberg.
Erickson is familiar with Bercovici — he's a player that Erickson recruited when he was head coach at Arizona State from 2007-11.3 comments on this story
"That’s quite the coincidence; he started the first game, and now he’s starting against his old coach because of an injury. When you’re my age, there’s always something,” Erickson said of Bercovici.
NOTE: The Stallions placed starting running back Branden Oliver on injured reserve Friday. Oliver started all four games so far for Salt Lake this season and had a team-high 210 rushing yards and a touchdown on 54 carries before injuring his groin in the team's loss to Orlando. Oliver previously had played for the Chargers organization in the NFL from 2014-17 and was briefly with the Indianapolis Colts last preseason.