SALT LAKE CITY — The Arizona Rattlers made their first road trip of the year a successful one, pulling away from the division-rival Utah Blaze in the second half for a 77-49 win at EnergySolutions Arena.
In a matchup that pitted ArenaBowl MVP and Rattlers QB Nick Davila against AFL MVP and Utah QB Tommy Grady, neither offense got off to a great start.
On the third play of the first drive, Davila was intercepted by David Hyland, giving the Blaze the ball. But Grady didn’t fare any better on his opening possession, as his first throw was intercepted by Rattlers defensive lineman Cliff Dukes, who returned it 2 yards to the end zone for a quick score that gave Arizona the early lead. The Blaze’s Caesar Rayford blocked the extra-point attempt, keeping the score 6-0.
Utah turned the ball over again on its second drive, as Grady was intercepted by the Rattlers’ Jeremy Kellem. Arizona converted the turnover into points with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Davila to wideout Tysson Poots, extending the early lead to 13-0.
Grady answered on the ensuing possession, finding rookie receiver Mario Urrutia for a 10-yard scoring completion as time expired in the first quarter to make it 13-7.
The Rattlers opened the second quarter with a five-play drive that ended in a 27-yard scoring toss from Davila to Poots, but the Blaze responded quickly, as Grady fired a 4-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Thompkins to cut the margin to 20-14 midway through the quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Utah rookie Maurice Leggett stepped in front of a Davila pass for an interception, and Grady capitalized on the opportunity by hooking up with wideout Chase Deadder for a 3-yard score to give Utah a 21-20 lead with 3:29 remaining in the half.
The teams traded scores to close out the quarter, as Davila found Jared Perry for a 30-yard touchdown pass and Grady hit Urrutia on a 14-yard scoring completion. The Rattlers got the final score of the half, as Poots hauled in his third touchdown of the game to give Arizona a 33-28 lead at the midway point.
The third quarter began with a 22-yard interception returned for a touchdown by Rattlers defensive back Virgil Gray on the opening drive, the team’s second pick six of the content. Utah failed to convert a fourth down on the following possession, leading to a 1-yard touchdown run by Arizona fullback Odie Armstrong.
The Blaze’s following drive ended in yet another turnover, as Grady fired a pass over the middle that ricocheted off an official into the arms of a Rattlers defender. Davila took advantage, finding Perry for a 23-yard score to extend the lead to 53-28.
Utah would find the end zone again at the 12:26 mark when backup QB Jason Boltus hit Urrutia to make it 60-35, but it wasn’t nearly enough on this night. A field goal, another touchdown pass to Poots and an interception return for a score from Arkeith Brown, the Rattlers’ third of the night, would round out the scoring.
The Rattlers defense had five stops in the second half alone and forced the Blaze into a team-record six interceptions on the night.
Davila finished 21 for 30 for 285 yards and seven touchdowns.