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Salt Lake Stallions drop franchise's first game, 38-22 at Arizona Hotshots

TEMPE, Ariz. — Salt Lake's newest pro football team kicked off its inaugural season Sunday night.

But like half the teams in the eight-team Alliance of Professional Football, they'll begin play at 0-1.

Hotshots quarterback John Wolford hurled four touchdowns, including two to former Arizona State wide receiver Rashad Ross, as Arizona handed the Stallions their first loss in franchise history, 38-22 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.

Wolford completed 18 passes for 275 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Hotshots (1-0), including five passes to Ross for 103 yards and two scores.

Wolford, who played collegiately at Wake Forest, hurled two first-half touchdowns to lead the Hotshots to a 19-8 lead in the first half.

"I don’t think we played as physical as we needed to. Not even close," Stallions coach Dennis Erickson said after the game. “If I could say one thing that jumped out at me, we didn’t play as physical as we need to play in this league. And everyone in this league is pretty good."

But former BYU receiver Jordan Leslie pulled the Stallions within three, 19-16 with a stunning touchdown grab from former Liberty quarterback Josh Woodrum near the corner pylon just 13 seconds before the break.

👀 👀 👀 @Jles9#SLvAZ || #FullSteedAheadpic.twitter.com/36RC3J5JdU

— The Wild Stallyns Podcast (@Wild_Stallyns) February 11, 2019

Former Utah running back Matt Asiata scored the Stallions’ first touchdown in franchise history with a 1-yard plunge that tied the game at 8-8 in the first quarter. But the Hotshots regained the lead moments later and clung to the three-point halftime edge.

Branden Oliver led Salt Lake in rushing with 40 yards on eight attempts, while Joel Bouagnon added 39 yards on 16 carries.

Asiata finished with four carries for four yards and a touchdown.

Woodrum was the first starter in Salt Lake Stallions history, while backup quarterback Austin Allen was among the inactive, (along with former Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay, Utah linebacker Gionni Paul and BYU offensive lineman Tuni Kanuch).

Matt Asiata on the goal line takes it in for 6️⃣! @aafstallions | #SLvsAZpic.twitter.com/rJXf02iJNL

— The Alliance (@TheAAF) February 11, 2019

The 6-foot-3 Woodrum did not play in the second half with a hamstring injury, finishing his debut start with Salt Lake completing 10-of-22 passes with one touchdown and one interception.

Former Idaho signal caller Matt Linehan finished out the game in relief of Woodrum.

Linehan finished with 56 passing yards and a touchdown, while Anthony Denham caught five passes for 59 yards for the Stallions (0-1).

The Hotshots picked on the points, holding the Stallions scoreless in the second half until Nick Truesdell’s 7-yard TD grab from Linehan at the start of the fourth quarter.

But that merely decreased Salt Lake’s deficit to 35-22, and the Stallions could get no closer.

There were plenty of new innovations showcased during the first weekend of the Alliance of American Football. No point-after touchdowns, no kickoffs, and no extended television timeouts were among them.

But the game still came down to the essentials of football, Erickson said.

“We just made too many mistakes and we weren’t really consistent in any aspect of it,” Erickson said. “We got to get it straightened out here pretty quick.”

Salt Lake will play at Birmingham next Saturday at noon MT. Kickoff for the Stallions' inaugural home opener is scheduled for Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. MT at Rice-Eccles Stadium.