SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CBS Sports) – The San Jose SaberCats (10-4) knocked off the Utah Blaze (5-9) 57-49 in front of 6,393 fans in Salt Lake City on Saturday night in Arena Football League action. Quarterback Russ Michna completed 26-of-40 passes for 269 yards and six touchdowns with a pair of interceptions. He also scrambled for a six-yard score in the second quarter. San Jose’s defense came up big in this one, recovering two fumbles (one of which sealed the game) and forced three turnovers on downs.
San Jose opened the scoring, as Michna picked out wide receiver Huey Whittaker for a 17-yard scoring strike, providing the SaberCats an early 6-0 advantage after the extra point attempt was blocked. Each team traded defensive stops, before Blaze quarterback Jason Boltus picked out Mario Urrutia near the boards for a six-yard touchdown pass on third and goal to give Utah the 7-6 lead late in the first quarter.
Following a SaberCats turnover, Boltus picked out Urrutia for a second time early in the second quarter, as he got behind the SaberCats defense for a 27-yard touchdown, stretching their lead to 14-6. San Jose responded quickly, as Jabari Fletcher powered his way into the end zone from one-yard out to pull the SaberCats within a point at 14-13 with 10:40 to play in the half. Boltus then threw his third touchdown of the half, as wide receiver Anthony Jackson made a difficult one-handed grab in the back of the end zone midway through the second quarter, pushing the Utah lead to 21-13. Michna exhibited his elusiveness, as he shook a pair of Blaze defenders on his way into the end zone from six yards out to pull the SaberCats closer, at 21-20 with just two minutes to play in the half. After both teams traded scores, San Jose picked up a huge onside kick recovery and immediately made the Blaze pay. Michna found a wide open Jason Willis for a ten-yard touchdown, his 30th scoring reception on the season, and the SaberCats took a 34-28 lead into the halftime break.
The defenses stood tall in the third quarter, as San Jose forced a pair of turnovers on downs inside the red zone, and Blaze linebacker Antwan Marsh picked off his second pass of the game. The SaberCats broke through late in the quarter, however, as Michna found a wide open Amarri Jackson for a 14-yard score to give San Jose their largest lead of the game at 41-28.
The Blaze fought back early in the fourth quarter and pulled within six points at 41-35 when Boltus threw a jump ball for (Anthony) Jackson that he hauled in over a defender in the back of the end zone. Michna connected with Whittaker again, this time from nine yards out to extend the San Jose advantage to 48-35. The Boltus-Urrutia combination proved deadly once more, as the former Louisville receiver scored on a 34-yard catch and run to slice into the SaberCats’ lead, making it 48-42 with eight minutes remaining in the fourth. San Jose marched down the field, but were forced into a fourth and goal situation. Kicker Nich Pertuit stepped up and calmly knocked through the 24-yard field goal to push the SaberCats lead to two scores, at 51-42. Boltus then connected with (Anthony) Jackson, who went over-the-wall, inside of one minute to play to draw the Blaze within two at 51-49. Michna and Willis hooked up for the third time on the night with 44.1 seconds to play in the fourth, this time from 12-yards out, but an unsuccessful extra point attempt kept it a one-score game at 57-49. San Jose’s defense came up large once again, when it mattered most. Utah was threatening to move in for the potential tying score, and after a botched snap, defensive lineman Jason Stewart came up with the fumble recovery to seal the victory.
San Jose returns home next week to host the San Antonio Talons (8-6) at HP Pavilion on Saturday, July 6.
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