"I've never experienced this as long as I've been coaching," said Utah Blaze coach Ron James. "Earlier this week I was looking at the game rosters for the whole season and we have not had the same starting lineup in consecutive weeks. Not once."
But the Blaze (5-11) must press on, and will do so in their final road game of the season Saturday night against the Iowa Barnstormers (6-10) in Des Moines.
Neither team is playing for a playoff spot, but James said it's yet another indicative test for a group of rookies, not to mention 2012 AFL MVP Tommy Grady, who returns to the starting quarterback spot for Utah after being demoted for four weeks.
"What I'm looking forward to seeing in him is the type of leadership he possesses and him trying to revert back to his 2012 form," James said.
Heading into Saturday night's game at Iowa, star rookie receiver Mario Urrutia had been the lone consistent on the outside for the Blaze quarterbacks, but the injury bug has bitten again. Grady will have an all-rookie receiver corps against the Barnstormers, a team the Blaze defeated 43-34 on May 18 in Salt Lake City.
"That game was [two months] ago and within that [time], we have eight new starters out of 20," James said. "There's not a lot you can take away from that last game."
Blaze at Barnstormers
O At Wells Fargo Arena (Des Moines, Iowa)
Kickoff • Saturday, 6 p.m. MT
TV • CBS Sports Network stream
Radio • 97.5 FM
Records • Utah 5-11; Iowa 6-10
Last meeting • Utah 43, Iowa 34 (May 18)
About the Blaze • 2012 AFL MVP Tommy Grady gets the ball this week (60 touchdowns, 25 interceptions) and will hope to avoid the turnover-prone start to his season. … Rookie wideout Mario Urrutia (36 touchdowns, 1601 yards receiving) will be out against the Barnstormers.
About the Barnstormers • WR Marco Thomas ranks second in the AFL in receptions per game (9.2) as well as sixth in receiving yards per game (104.1)..