We wrote about the entirety of the Week 3 schedule last night, but since we are a Utah-based site, and because we have adopted the Salt Lake Stallions as our Alliance team, we wanted to write a more in-depth review of the game this week against the Arizona Hotshots.
The Stallions are hosting a game for the first time this season, with football fans from all over the Salt Lake Valley expected at Rice-Eccles Stadium on the University of Utah campus. It’s going to be cold at kickoff, with temperatures expected in the mid-30s at the 1pm MST kickoff (and not expected to warm up much during the course of the game).
Here’s a look at what to expect from the teams based on their performance this season:
When Arizona has the Ball
Arizona has the number one offense in the league though two games, with 442 passing yards (3rd) and 358 rushing yards (1st). They are also the second highest scoring team, averaging 29 points per game, scoring 38 points during it’s Week 1 victory against Salt Lake and 20 points in their come-from-behind victory last week against the Memphis Express.
Week 1 Offensive Player of the Week John Wolford has had solid command of the offense all season, and is second in the league with a passer rating of 115.6, throwing for 469 yards and six touchdowns, along with two interceptions. His favorite target – and recipient of three of his touchdown passes – is receiver Rashad Ross, who has 170 yards on nine catches (on 11 targets).
That first-ranked rushing offense boasts two rushers with over 100 yards on the season. Jhurrell Pressley has 121 yards through the first two weeks, while Justin Stockton has exactly 100 yards thus far. The two pack a great, strategic one-two punch, with Pressley featured between the tackles (30 carries for a 4 ypc average), while Stockton is a nice change of pace, averaging over nine yards per carry and a long of 45 yards (and the lone rushing touchdown for the team).
When Salt Lake has the Ball
The Arizona defense is led by linebacker Steven Johnson, who leads the team with 16 tackles, including four tackles for loss. The former NFL linebacker – he played with the Denver Broncos among others – captains a defense that is second in total yards allowed at 238 yards per game. They have surrendered 20 points a game, which sounds like a lot but is currently 3rd in the league.
When these clubs met the first game of the season, the Arizona defense held the Salt Lake offense to 240 yards, including 88 net passing yards. They also forced three turnovers – two interceptions and a fumble – which helped to stymie the Salt Lake offensive attack. They also forced the Stallions to punt on six of their 11 possessions.
Salt Lake Stallions
When Salt Lake has the Ball
Three Salt Lake quarterbacks have combined to be about a league average quarterback, going 32 of 66 for 273 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions (a rating of 57.2). Game 1 starter Josh Woodrum was injured in the game, giving way to Scott Linehan. For Game 2, coach Dennis Erickson went with Austin Allen, who didn’t do a whole lot. I imagine if Woodrum is healthy – he was a full participant in Thursday practice – he will get the starting nod again, but we may not know for sure until game time.
But last week did serve as a breakout game for the Stallions own two-headed running back. Joel Bouagnan and Branden Oliver combined for 129 yards on the ground against the Iron, with a Bouagnan touchdown in the first quarter helping stake the Stallions to their first lead of the season. Expect these two to lead the offense yet again today.
Continuing the two-headed monster theme, the leading receivers for the Stallions are a couple of tight ends. Anthony Denham and Nick Truesdell have combined for 11 receptions for 100 yards (and a touchdown).
When Arizona has the Ball
As mentioned above, the Hotshots have the top offense in the league. The Stallions have the fifth-place defense. Either the Salt Lake defense steps up in this one, or we’ll have a repeat of Week 1.
The Stallions will have Karter Schult, the league leader in sacks (3.0) coming after Wolford all day, but they have only forced one turnover on defense thus far this season. As they showed last week against the Iron, they can be a consistent defense for stretches – they forced three punts and a fumble in the Iron’s first four drives last Saturday – but then allowed the Iron to score on each of their next two drives heading into halftime.
Who Comes Out on Top
I predicted a win for Salt Lake in last week’s game, and for at least one quarter, I looked a little prescient. I’d like the to see the Stallions pick up the win in this one too, if only because I expect a fairly decent crowd in the stands for the game despite what looks like pretty nasty weather today. However, the Stallions will not win if they continue to complete less than 50% of their passes, even if Bouagnon and Oliver run for another 130 yards combined.
A Hotshots’ win would allow them to stay at the top of the conference, one game ahead of the winner and the San Antonio/San Diego game. A Stallions loss would bury them at the bottom of the standings for another week, and with a game looming against the Orlando Apollos next week, they would be looking at the potential of an 0-4 start. Not the best way to start out a 10-game season.
We’ll be at the game later to see the Stallions in person, and we hope that you enjoy the game along with us. Check back tomorrow for a full recap and our thoughts on the game!