Spokane had a better day off the field than on it.
The Shock’s playoff hopes were dealt a major setback when they blew an 11-point lead in the final 40 seconds and lost to Utah 58-55 in front of 8,852 Saturday at the Arena. The loss dropped the Shock to 7-6 while Utah, one of the teams Spokane is chasing for a playoff berth, improved to 9-5.
On the labor front, Shock majority owner Brady Nelson said the Arena Football League and AFL players union have tentatively agreed on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement. Nelson, in Chicago as part of the AFL’s negotiating team, said a few items still need to be worked out, but they “won’t stand in our way.”
On the field, the Shock recovered an onside kick and Terence Moore scored on a 4-yard run to hike Spokane’s lead to 55-44 with 40.1 seconds left. Spokane appeared to be in control, but arena football can turn around in hurry.
Utah quarterback Tommy Grady fired a touchdown pass to trim Spokane’s lead to 55-50. Former Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman, who missed three PATs and a 33-yard field goal, tried another onside kick. This one bounced a couple of times and was fielded by 265-pound fullback Ben Stallings, who was tackled at Spokane’s 18-yard line.
The play left Shock coach Andy Olson fuming afterward. He believed Utah should have been called for an illegal block.
“It was the same call they flagged us on earlier (in the second quarter),” Olson said. “The guy even threw the flag and then decided it wasn’t an illegal hit.”
Two Shock penalties helped Utah move to Spokane’s 2. Spokane appeared to have Grady sacked, but he flung the ball out of bounds and officials ruled that it wasn’t intentional grounding. Spokane challenged the call and lost.
“Probably the worst call I’ve ever seen in my life,” Olson said.
Tysson Poots, who torched Spokane for 206 receiving yards, pulled in his fifth touchdown reception to give Utah the lead with 3.2 seconds left. Spokane’s Kenny Spencer came up way short on a 63-yard field-goal attempt on the final play.
“That last minute in arena football is pivotal,” Shock defensive end Mike Alston said. “We had the lead inside the last 30 seconds and the ball bounced their way.”
The lead traded hands five times in the second half before Alston stripped the ball from Grady and Moore scooped the ball up at the Blaze 2-yard line and plunged into the end zone, giving Spokane a 48-38 lead with 3:33 remaining.
Spokane’s defense did more than enough to win the game, forcing two turnovers and helping the Shock dig out of a 20-7 first-half deficit after the offense failed to score on two of its first three possessions.
“They were amazing,” Olson said. “The amount of film study the DBs and linebackers put in really paid off and our defensive line was all over Grady.”
Spokane quarterback Kyle Rowley had five touchdown passes and one interception. Steven Black and Rod Harper each had two TD catches and Moore added two rushing scores.
Grady passed for 366 yards and nine touchdowns. Aaron Lesue finished with three touchdown receptions and ex-Shock receiver Shaun Kauleinamoku had eight catches for 52 yards.
Spokane visits San Jose (9-4) on Saturday.
“We have to win out and get help,” Olson said. “It’s going to be a long road, but the only choice you have when you get knocked down is you have to stand up.”
Uta-Poots 38 pass from Grady (kick failed)
Spo-Black 24 pass from Rowley (Spencer kick)
Uta-Poots 24 pass from Grady (Brotzman kick)
Uta-Lesue 9 pass from Grady (Brotzman kick)
Spo-Harper 15 pass from Rowley (Spencer kick)
Spo-Moore 1 run (kick failed)
Uta-Poots 6 pass from Grady (kick failed)
Spo-Black 6 pass from Rowley (Spencer kick)
Uta-Lesue 30 pass from Grady (run failed)
Spo-Cave 14 pass from Rowley (Spencer kick)
Uta-Kelley 8 pass from Grady (pass failed)
Spo-Harper 19 pass from Rowley (Spencer kick)
Spo-Moore 3 fumble return (Spencer kick)
Uta-Poots 6 pass from Grady (kick failed)
Spo-Moore 4 run (Spencer kick)
Uta-Lesue 2 pass from Grady (pass failed)
Uta-Poots 3 pass from Grady (Poots pass from Grady)
RUSHING—Utah, Lesue 1-1, Stallings 1-(-1), Grady 4-(-6). Spokane, Moore 3-5, Tennell 1-4, Rowley 1-(-7).
PASSING—Utah, Grady 34-49-366-1. Spokane, Rowley 21-38-298-1.
RECEIVING—Utah, Poots 15-206, Lesue 9-86, Kauleinamoko 8-52, Kelley 2-22. Spokane, Black 7-128, Tennell 5-68, Harper 5-61, Thompkins 2-22, Cave 2-19.