One of Spokane Shock coach Andy Olson’s priorities this week was helping his team “get our energy back.”
What better place to try to do that than at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City?
That’s where the Shock, trying to bounce back from their first loss of the Arena Football League season, will face the Utah Blaze tonight. Spokane (5-1) dropped from first to third in the coaches’ poll after falling to Tampa Bay 70-62. No. 8 Utah (2-3) snapped a three-game losing skid with a 57-40 victory over Cleveland.
“We came out flat on both sides of the ball (against Tampa Bay), special teams as well,” Olson said. “My message was not to make the same mistake twice.”
Connections run deep between the two teams. Utah has nine former Shock players, including receiver Brandon Thompkins (150.5 all-purpose yards per game), linebacker Antwan Marsh (18 tackles), ends Mike Alston (2.5 sacks) and Caesar Rayford (two sacks), and defensive back Al Phillips (16 tackles). Shannon Tevaga and Antonio Narcisse start on the offensive line.
Erik Meyer was Utah quarterback Tommy Grady’s backup before he was acquired by Spokane in a 2011 trade. Blaze defensive coordinator Rob Keefe was Spokane’s head coach in 2010-11 and hired Olson as offensive coordinator early in the 2011 season. Utah offensive coordinator Matt Sauk held the same title in Spokane and was a finalist for the head coaching job that eventually went to Olson.
“We’ve got a lot of friends down there,” Meyer said. “Come game day there’s no friends on the field. It’s going to be fun to compete against those guys.”
Grady’s 142 touchdown passes and 5,870 yards last season established new AFL single-season records. The 2012 league MVP has struggled this season with 13 interceptions and a 60.4 completion percentage.
“He’s one of the best in this game,” Olson said. “He’s starting to find a little bit of rhythm. He played better against Cleveland.”
Notes: Spokane is 4-0 on the road. Utah is 0-3 at home with losses to Arizona, Tampa Bay and Chicago. … Shock linebacker Terence Moore returns after missing the Tampa Bay game with a shoulder injury.. … Utah beat the Shock twice last season. The Blaze rallied from an 11-point deficit with 40 seconds left to win in Spokane.