Shock double over Blaze
Spokane rebounds with easy victory at Utah
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – The boos rang loud every time Taylor Rowan put a Shock kickoff into the E-Center stands.
The rest of the night, Spokane was giving every reason for Utah fans to boo their own team in the Blaze’s season opener.
Making it look incredibly easy and making the Blaze look incredibly bad in the process, Spokane rebounded from last week’s loss to Milwaukee by destroying Utah 68-34 in an Arena Football League game played Friday night before an announced crowd of 5,032.
“The most improvement comes from week one to week two,” Spokane coach Rob Keefe said. “Losing last week made us not take anything for granted.”
Kyle Rowley mixed the dump pass and the long ball effectively en route to a six-touchdown night as Spokane scored on all eight possessions through three quarters.
Rowley finished 21 of 29 for 224 yards. Raul Vijil caught three touchdown passes, while Markee White had two and Huey Whittaker posted 11 catches for 94 yards and two scores.
“It looks easy, but it’s really about execution,” Rowley said. “Our philosophy is if they want to go man-to-man, we’re going to take advantage of it. This was a tribute to us coming out to practice and focusing.”
While the Shock scored easily and often, all Utah could muster for scoring in the first 30 minutes were the kickoff returns of Brandon Hampton.
His two kickoff returns for touchdowns gave Utah a modicum of hope while keeping the Blaze within a touchdown for most of the first half.
Then the Shock got the idea of putting the kickoff way into the stands to keep Hampton from touching the ball. After that, a 20-14 lead extended to 49-14.
“We had to do what we had to do. I wasn’t going to let them get in the game,” Keefe said. “Give Utah all the credit for those scores. We were lacking in special teams.”
And it got better for Spokane and worse for Utah:
•Blaze starter Michael Affleck, son of the owner, hit only 4 of 12 passes for 42 yards.
•Kicker Kenny Byrd missed a pair of chip-shot field goals early, one spoiling one of Hampton’s long returns.
•Brett Elliot, a former University of Utah quarterback who took over for Affleck, fumbled on his first snap and was sacked on his second and fourth. Elliot finally got the Blaze offense into the end zone on a 3-yarder to Aaron Boone with 2:32 remaining in the third quarter, but by then Spokane was up 49-20.
Spokane needed only five plays to get into the end zone to start the game.
The defense registered a William Mulder interception on the third play of the game. Rowley hit White for 39 yards on Spokane’s first offensive play, then Eddie Thompson scored easily on a 3-yard run. A 17-yard pass from Rowley to Whittaker made it 14-0.
The only worry Spokane had in the first half was on the final possession, but Rowley found his way into the end zone on a 1-yard keeper that gave the Shock a 35-14 lead.
Former Eastern Washington University quarterback Erik Meyer was 8 of 11 for 77 yards and one touchdown pass during mop-up time for Spokane.
Vijil added a third touchdown on a kickoff.
Shock 68, Blaze 34
SPO–Thompson 3 run (Rowan kick)
SPO–Whittaker 17 pass from Rowley (Rowan kick)
UTA–Hampton 54 kickoff return (Byrd kick)
SPO–Vijil 11 pass from Rowley (kick blocked)
UTA–Hampton 56 kickoff return (Byrd kick)
SPO–White 14 pass from Rowley (White pass from Rowley)
SPO–Rowley 1 run (Rowan kick)
SPO–Vijil 27 pass from Rowley (Rowan kick)
SPO–Vijil 21 pass from Rowley (Rowan kick)
UTA–Boone 3 pass from Elliot (kick failed)
SPO–White 31 pass from Rowley (kick blocked)
UTA–Boone 9 pass from Elliot (kick failed)
SPO–Vijil 56 kickoff return (Rowan kick)
UTA–Williams 8 run (Boone pass from Elliot)
SPO–Whittaker 1 pass from Meyer (kick blocked)
Rushing–Spokane, Rowley 2-7, Thompson 1-3. Utah, Affleck 1-5, Elliot 1-(-6), Williams 1-8.
Passing–Spokane, Rowley 21-29-0-224, Meyer 8-11-0-77. Utah, Elliot 10-17-0-122, Affleck 4-12-1-42.
Receiving–Spokane, Whittaker 12-95, White 8-118, Vijil 7-81, Harrell 1-2, Thompson 1-5. Utah, Boone 8-90, Williams 4-54, Francies 2-20.