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WEST VALLEY CITY -- Take a year off from playing a sport, and there are bound to be some growing pains. Your golf score goes up, your three pointer hits the front iron instead of the usual bottom of the net, and your bowling score drops from 275 to 220. For the Utah Blaze, those growing pains were ever so apparent.
The Blaze (0-1) struggled offensively the entire game, falling 68-34 in their season and home opener to the Spokane Shock (1-1) Friday night at the E Center in West Valley.
Having only six players on the roster that have played Arena Football, and only one returning member from the 2008 Utah Blaze (Aaron Boone), the Blaze were outmatched in every facet of the game. The lone bright spot came on special teams as Brandon Hampton returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the first half. The Spokane response? Just kick the ball out of bounds.
The anemic Blaze offense managed just three yards on offense in the first quarter. At halftime, the Shock had run 26 plays for 147 yards. The Blaze? Thirteen plays, 47 yards.
"We're rusty. These guys had a game on us, and it showed," Blaze veteran wide receiver Aaron Boone said.
The Shock offense, led by quarterback Kyle Rowley, scored seemingly at will. The first defensive stop came with 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Even the kicking game was a nightmare for Utah, missing 2 field goal attempts and 2 extra points.
"(We had) a lot of mistakes for our first game. We'll have to take the good and bad out of it. There were some good individual efforts," Utah Blaze Head Coach Ernesto Purnsley said.
"(We had) a lot of mistakes for our first game. We'll have to take the good and bad out of it. There were some good individual efforts," Utah Blaze Head Coach Ernesto Purnsley said. "We were able to see what we need to correct so they don't happen in our next game."
While the loudest cheering from the 5,032 fans in attendance may have been at halftime when American Idol runner up and Utah resident David Archuleta performed, the Blaze showed improvement in the second half. Ex University of Utah quarterback Brett Elliott was able to spark the offense, leading the Blaze to three touchdowns.
Starter Michael Affleck completed only 4-of-12 passes for 42 yards with one interception. Elliott stepped in after halftime, completing 10 of 17 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, both to Aaron Boone.
"Obviously there was a quarterback change, but I think the rest of us settled down and rallied around together and we went out and made something happen," Boone said of the sparks the Blaze showed in the second half.
"I don't think there was a phase in our game today that we played well," Elliott said. "It's on us as players to get this thing straightened."
The Blaze are back in action Saturday when they host the Alabama Vipers at 7 p.m. at the E Center.