Blaze Defense Leads Team to Win

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    By Ashley Green

    The Blaze defense finally decided to show up Monday night – only two years late.

    “We practiced defense this week,” said Blaze coach Danny White wryly. “We hadn”t practiced it all year and we decided to practice it this week.”

    In its short history, the Blaze have never been known for their defensive prowess, but they showed the hometown crowd of 15,223 – and the thousands watching on ESPN2 – what can happen when the defensive backs decide to play.

    They are unstoppable.

    A final score of 51-14 meant the Blaze held the Colorado Crush to the lowest score in Crush franchise history Monday night in the first nationally televised arena football game on ESPN2.

    “Our line got in there and our corners played ball like they know how to do and you saw the result,” said Blaze wide receiver/linebacker Ryan Dennard.

    In addition, Crush wide receiver Damian Harrell was left, for the first time in 78 games, without a single touchdown. He has seen the end zone in every game he”s played since 2002.

    The outstanding Blaze line also forced the Crush to give up six turnovers – including four interceptions, three of which resulted in double-digit gains for the Blaze. Defensive backs Leroy Smith, Dahnel Singfield and Jacoby Shepherd all recovered turnovers. A thrilling forced fumble by lineman John Culp was picked up by Dennard and run for a 12-yard gain.

    “Defense takes all the glory on this one,” said Blaze center Hans Olsen, a former BYU standout. “An amazing, amazing job – absolutely solid.”

    Offensively, those 51 points didn”t come easy for the Blaze. Blown assignments and bad calls led to five stops by the Crush. Three were saved by field goals by kicker Steve Videtich, another was a bad snap forcing holder Jason Gesser to throw an ultimately incomplete pass, and the last was intercepted in the end zone.

    “It was a banner night for the defense,” White said. “But I”m real disappointed in our offense. I don”t know why we can”t do both at the same time.”

    Quarterback Joe Germaine was trying for eight touchdowns to become the third player in AFL history to break 100 passing touchdowns in a season. Despite throwing for 164 yards, completing 20 of 32 pass attempts and pulling a quarterback sneak into the end zone, he still came up three touchdowns short, leaving the record likely to be broken when the Blaze take on the Western Division champs, the San Jose SaberCats, Saturday night.

    “Fifty-one points is pretty good against the defense they have,” Germaine said. “We missed some opportunities, especially in the red zone. We”re pretty disappointed about that, but we”ll take the win.”

    Blaze wide receiver Siaha Burley was also looking to break a record Monday night. Burley is well on his way to becoming the first AFL player with 2,000 receiving yards in a single season. He only needed 186 yards – not an impossible feat – to get there. But the skilled Crush defense had his number and kept him to only 56 yards and three touchdowns.

    With less than a week to prepare for their next opponent, the Blaze don”t have much time to celebrate their victory. They are right back to work with little time to rest, but they are still planning on a win to cement their playoff hopes.

    “We”re good with short turnaround,” Olsen said. “We played Grand Rapids on a short turnaround and beat the snot out of them.”

    The Blaze host the SaberCats at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online at ticketmaster.com or in person at the arena. The game will also be broadcast on KJZZ.

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