The Spokane Shock are ready for a break from football.
But before that, they were ready for Utah, scoring 27 unanswered points en route to an 80-41 Arena Football League victory over the Blaze in front of 9,965 Friday at the Arena.
The second-ranked Shock (10-4) scored on offense, defense and special teams in cruising to their fifth win in six games. They’ll have next week off – their only bye in the 18-game regular season – before visiting Tampa Bay on July 6.
“Fourteen games in a row, you’re bound to have some people hurt,” said Shock coach Andy Olson, who watched offensive linemen Patrick Afif (left knee) and Chris Pino (ribs) exit with injuries. “These guys need the bye week physically and just as much mentally.”
Linebacker Terence Moore recovered two fumbles, one in Utah’s end zone and one that he returned 17 yards for another touchdown. Moore also made the recovery on Taylor Rowan’s bar-ball kickoff.
Brandon Thompkins, acquired from Utah in a trade in May, had 11 receptions for 174 yards against his former team.
“I heard the coaches on the other side, (former Shock head coach and current Blaze defensive coordinator) Rob Keefe to be exact, talking a little smack to me,” Thompkins said. “As the game went on, I didn’t hear nothing.”
Fullback Will Falakiseni’s 2-yard touchdown run broke a 13-13 tie early in the second quarter.
Spokane’s pass rush got to Utah quarterback Jason Boltus twice in three plays. On the first, James Ruffin’s hit left Boltus shaken up. Utah, which didn’t suit up a second-team quarterback, took a timeout to give Boltus time to recover.
“The game plan going in was getting to the quarterback,” said Ruffin, who also filled in at fullback after injuries to the offensive line. “It’s his second game playing and their offensive line was a little shaky and they were moving guys around. It was a collective effort.”
Two plays later, Diyral Briggs sacked Boltus and stripped the football loose. Moore recovered in the end zone and Spokane led by 13. After another Shock defensive stop, Erik Meyer zipped a 10-yard touchdown pass to Arvell Nelson. Patrick Stoudamire’s interception in the closing seconds preserved Spokane’s 20-point halftime lead.
“The one fumble was because of pressure by the nose guard (Terrance Taylor) and the other was great pressure by Briggs,” Moore said. “Great effort by my team.”
Spokane scored on Thompkins’ touchdown reception early in the third quarter, boosting its lead to 40-13.
Taylor had two of Spokane’s five sacks. Boltus had some success when he had time to throw. He passed for 362 yards –138 to Mario Urrutia – and six touchdowns.
“One of the things we harp on is after the game we want to make sure that quarterback knows our defensive line,” Briggs said.
Meyer passed for four touchdowns and ran for two. Kamar Jorden had two TD catches and Adron Tennell had one. Terrance Sanders had his fifth kick return for a touchdown, this one covering 57 yards and extending Spokane’s lead to 53-27.
“Momentum is everything in this game,” said Olson, whose team snapped a three-game losing streak to Utah. “If you can return fumbles for touchdowns, kicks for touchdowns, it just kills momentum for the opponent.”
Spokane extended its lead over San Jose (8-4) for second place in the West Division. The SaberCats entertain No. 1 Arizona tonight.
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