06/09/2012 10:24 PM
Utah used a powerful defensive effort to smother key Rush threats, such as WR Reggie Gray (middle) - photo courtesy of Utah Blaze
- SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - A first quarter disaster evolved into a 40-point defeat for the Chicago Rush (7-5) as the Utah Blaze (8-5) put things on cruise control on way to a 68-28 smoking at the EnergySolutions Arena Saturday night in Salt Lake City. The 40-point loss is the worst defeat for the Chicago Rush in their eleven year history.
Winning the coin toss for the first time in over a month, the Chicago Rush attempted an unsuccessful onside kick that turned into seven quick points for the Blaze when Tommy Grady found Aaron Lesue for a 14-yard score. Slow out of the gate offensively, Russ Michna (16-29, 161 yards, 2 TD) couldn’t lead the Rush to points until the fourth offensive possession, mainly because the Utah defense forced back-to-back turnover on downs and then had their special teams recover a kickoff for a touchdown.
By the time the Rush scratched the scoring column it was eighteen minutes into the game and they were down 28-0. Reggie Gray (11 catches, 87 yards, 2 TD) took in a 9-yard pass from Michna and Luke Drone used his legs to notch his ninth rushing touchdown on the year to bring the team back within 20. However, the defense couldn’t find any clues to stop the Utah offense as Blaze wide receiver Tysson Poots terrorized the secondary for 11 catches and 126 yards in the first half alone. His 27-yard touchdown grab with 2:13 left in the first half put Utah up 41-14, marking his second touchdown of the night.
“We lost in the special teams. We lost in the defense. We lost in the offense and we lost in the coaching,” stated Chicago Head Coach Bob McMillen about every facet of the game. “We’re down right now when it comes to playing on the road, but by no means does this loss erase our chances for anything the rest of the way.”
Nevertheless, the first half nightmare wouldn’t end there for the Rush as the Blaze attempted an onside kick that was fumbled out of the hands of Rush DB Kelvyn Hemphill, leading to Utah’s seventh offensive possession in the first half. Everything appeared to be snowballing until a holding penalty by the Blaze negated an end of the half touchdown to keep Chicago within 27.
The third quarter gave way to Chicago’s only advantage of the night. The opening second half possession went 47-yards ending with a Reggie Gray touchdown catch. However, the rest of the third quarter didn’t give way to the kind of momentum needed as the Blaze answered with an eight play, 48-yard drive clocking off over five minutes. Luke Drone added his 10th rushing touchdown of the season on the following possession, but the large deficit needed more than the 14-7 point differential in the third quarter.
Stops never came for a Rush defense who relied on 14 Blaze penalties to slow the pace of the hard charging Utah offense. Just when the Rush had a chance to stop the Blaze on fourth down to have an opportunity at closing the game within two scores early in the fourth quarter, Tommy Grady surveyed to find Aaron Lesue for his 100th touchdown pass of the season.
Salt in the wound came with 7:28 left in the game after the Rush turned the ball over on downs for the third time in the game. Tommy Grady (32-45, 366 yards, 7 TD) launched a bullet down the middle of the field to a sliding Aaron Lesue who held on for his third touchdown of the game, putting the Blaze up 34.
Mistakes on offense weren’t necessarily the reason for Chicago’s season low 28 points. The Rush held the ball for only 25 minutes all game and didn’t commit an offensive turnover with Michna at the helm. However, Utah appeared to be aware of everything Chicago threw at them offensively and defensively, putting Chicago in a state of flux to find a remedy.
The ability for Utah to outsmart the AFL’s most efficient passer led to Michna only throwing for a season low 161 yards and two touchdowns. The two touchdown passes against the Blaze were Michna’s lowest total for a full game since a 2010 Week 7 loss to the Iowa Barnstormers.
No Rush wide receiver collected over a hundred yards receiving for the first time all season. Conversely, Utah wide receivers Tysson Poots and Aaron Lesue both went over a hundred yards and caught three touchdowns apiece, while Kauleinamoku and Kelley each added 70 and 64 yards respectively.
A now 1-5 Rush road record won’t be tested for two weeks as the Rush return to the Allstate Arena June 16th where they have a shining 6-0 record. The opponent for next week's home game is the familiar Georgia Force (6-6), who dropped the Rush earlier in the year 70-49 down in Gwinnett.
ABOUT CHICAGO RUSH
Tickets are available for the next Rush home game June 16th vs. Georgia. Season ticket and flex plans also on sale with prices starting as low as $8 a ticket, and can be purchased by calling the Chicago Rush office at 855.RUSH.WIN (855.787.4946) or by visiting arenarush.com. Coming off their best regular season record (13-5) in 2011, the 2006 ArenaBowl Champion Chicago Rush are looking to make their 11th straight playoff appearance in 2012 under the leadership of Coach Bob McMillen. For up to the minute updates on the Rush, follow Facebook.com/arenarush and @arenarush on Twitter.