– Utah defensive end Caesar Rayford (6-7, 260, Washington) scored three defensive touchdowns and Aaron Boone (6-2, 213, Kentucky) tallied seven catches for 161 yards and four scores, but it wasn’t enough in the Blaze’s 83-58 loss the Arizona Rattlers Friday night at Maakoa Field at the E Center.
Arizona quarterback Nick Davila, who was named the Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game, completed 28-of-37 passes for 335 yards and nine touchdowns as the Rattlers handed the Blaze their third straight loss.
“We played hot and cold, but we had some guys that stepped up and made some plays,” Utah Blaze head coach Ernesto Purnsley said. “The guy that stands out is Caesar Rayford. He played a really good game. He’s always been a motor guy and it paid off tonight for him.”
The two teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter with Arizona QB Nick Davila threw for three scores (two on the Rattlers’ first two possessions) and Utah QB Michael Affleck (6-3, 230, Utah State), making his second start of the season, connected with Boone for touchdowns of 32 and 42 yards.
After a Ben Scott field goal cut the Arizona lead to 21-17, the Blaze took their first lead of the game when Rayford, the Riddell Defensive Player of the Game, stripped Davila of the ball and returned it 35 yards for the touchdown to give the Blaze the 24-21 lead.
The Rattlers rallied with 14 straight points to lead 35-24 before Affleck hit Boone, who had the Cutter’s Catch of the Game, again and Rayford had a 16-yard interception return for a touchdown to regain the Utah lead at 39-35.
Arizona scored two touchdowns in the final 12 seconds of the half – one on a touchdown pass from Davila to former Blaze WR J.J. McKelvey – and the second on a recovered Affleck fumble in the end zone as time expired to lead 48-39 at the break.
Affleck capped Utah’s first drive of the second half with a 1-yard TD run to cut the lead to three with 13:07 left in the third quarter.
After the Blaze cut the lead to three, the Rattlers (4-3) rebuilt the lead to as high as 17 and the Blaze wouldn’t get any closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Rod Windsor led the Rattlers with 15 catches for 152 yards and six scores, while Traden Harvey, the Ironman of the Game, added eight catches for 140 yards and two scores and 77 return yards.
Affleck completed 14-of-25 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception, but he lost three fumbles.
The Blaze are back in action Friday, June 4 when they travel to Cleveland for a meeting with the Gladiators. They return home June 12 for the first of two straight home games with Chicago and Tampa Bay, respectively.