SALT LAKE CITY – The Spokane Shock was hoping to return from a bye week looking like the team that throttled Kansas City 61-34 two weeks ago.
Instead, Spokane was once again undone by a costly turnover and crucial penalties – the same types of miscues that symbolized its 0-3 start this season – in a 69-62 Arena Football League loss to host Utah in front of 7,649 Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
Spokane’s Kyle Rowley passed for 323 yards and nine touchdowns, equaling a franchise record he already shared with Andrico Hines, but he was part of a momentum-changing turnover in the second quarter. Rowley and Antonio Narcisse botched a quarterback-center exchange and Utah’s Michael Lewis recovered. The Blaze capitalized with one of Tommy Grady’s six touchdown passes to build a 20-7 lead.
“I’m really at a loss, literally,” head coach Rob Keefe said in a postgame radio interview. “We’re not in good position at 1-4, (losing to) a divisional opponent. We just have to clean our act up. A fumbled snap; that just can’t happen.”
Rowley threw an incomplete pass as Spokane (1-4) was stopped on fourth-and-1 in the second quarter. Utah, which produced touchdowns on its first 10 possessions, scored to boost its lead to 34-14.
The Shock scored in the closing seconds of the first half. They followed it up with Rowley’s touchdown pass to Emery Sammons to trim Utah’s lead to 34-28 early in the third quarter.
The teams traded touchdowns the rest of the way. Spokane’s best chance to break that trend came when Beau Bell secured the football on a Shock kickoff that bounded off the iron bar. However, Bell’s recovery was erased by a penalty.
Three Shock onside kicks failed in the fourth quarter, including one that was returned 7 yards for a touchdown by Ernie Pierce.
Utah (3-2) tried to run the clock out, but left just enough time for one Shock offensive play from their 14-yard line. Greg Orton nearly hauled in Rowley’s pass in the end zone.
“It was very close,” said Orton, who had 14 receptions for 146 yards and five touchdowns. “Kyle threw it up and it bounced off the bar and then a fan hit it. I tried to get it after the fan touched it. It was a very physical game and I know a lot of our guys are beat up. It hurts because it was so close. We just have to finish.”
The Shock defense didn’t register a sack or force a turnover. Spokane, the AFL’s most penalized team, was flagged 10 times for 59 yards.
The Shock visit Orlando next Saturday.