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Rush Crush Blaze, 67-43, Behind 26 Straight Points and Stout Defense

Sunday June 9, 2013

 Wide receiver Jared Jenkins finishes with five touchdown receptions, Reggie Gray with three

ROCKFORD, IL - The Chicago Rush took the lead in the second quarter and burst out in the third quarter to secure a comfortable 67-43 victory over the Utah Blaze.

“These guys are professional football players,” coach Bob McMillen said. “Give these guys a lot of credit. We had a great locker room and we’re coming closer and closer as a family in that locker room and these guys are doing the right things on and off the field, starting their play by watching tape and then preparing for teams, and it has been showing lately.”

All of which made for a highly successful Rockford debut.

“It’s awesome to come out here and play in Rockford, to touch a different fan base that we haven’t been able to touch playing in Rosemont,” McMillen said. “To have such die-hard fans come all the way out to Rockford and watch these games, and to watch the new fans come in that maybe have never seen a game and watching them cheer and watching them get excited, it was awesome.”

The Rush (7-5), who intercepted Blaze quarterback Tommy Grady four times in their last meeting, came up with two more picks of Grady on Saturday evening. Kelvin Morris intercepted a laser aimed directly at him, while Vic Hall had to use extension to snare a pass in the right corner of the end zone. Hall did an outstanding job all night manning the middle in Jorrick Calvin’s place.

“I like it,” Hall said. “The more balls, the more opportunities to make a play. It’s just the next man up. We have depth in the defensive backfield. One man goes down, we got essentially four guys that can play the middle if need be. In this situation, I was the next man up.”

Wide receiver Reggie Gray was his usual spectacular self, with three touchdown receptions to expand his season total to 34. He has now tallied multiple touchdown catches in 9 of 12 games for Chicago this season. He was joined by Jared Jenkins, who recorded five touchdown receptions to make it eight over the past two weeks. Jenkins was cut by the Blaze earlier this season.

“It’s always good to come back and play against a team that you were in camp with or you may have played with and show the mistake that they made,” Jenkins said.

The Blaze (4-7) jumped out to a 7-0 lead after Rush quarterback Carson Coffman had four straight incompletions on the Rush’s opening drive, and Grady found Mario Urrutia in the end zone. Chicago responded with a long drive that resulted in a 20-yard touchdown pass to Gray. From there, the two teams traded touchdowns, with Utah taking a 14-13 lead early in the second quarter.

The Rush gained their first lead on the backs of a powerful goal-line defense, as Hall pushed a receiver into the boards to force an incompletion on third down. On fourth down, it was much of the same, as defensive back Josh Pleasant came up with the diving deflection. Jenkins gave Chicago the advantage with a little bit of extra effort to cross the goal line and finish off a 15-yard touchdown reception. Jenkins staged a repeat to cap off the first half, as he fought his way in for an 18-yard touchdown to send Chicago into halftime leading 34-28.

The Rush carried that momentum into the second half, as they came up with an immediate turnover on downs, and Coffman followed with his third touchdown pass to Jenkins. On the extra-point attempt, the snap escaped the holder, setting up a near easy score for the Blaze. Hall would not let that happen, however, chasing the Blaze player all the way down the field for a tackle just yards shy of the end zone.

“Can’t let him get two points,” Hall said. “That’s the biggest thing. You never know, they could have gotten momentum with that play. It doesn’t matter if we were down, we were up, as a football player, if there’s a play to be made and I’m out there, I’m going to make the play.”

Morris then came up with his pick and Reggie Gray gave the Rush a three-possession lead with his third touchdown of the game. Jenkins made it 26 straight points for Chicago with an astounding effort on a screen pass, as he dodged from left to right to run it 39 yards down the field for a score.

Jenkins earned Russell Offensive Player of the Game honors with his nine-catch, 137-yard performance. Vic Hall came up with eight tackles to earn the Riddell Defensive Player of the Game accolade. Linebacker Kelvin Morris earned J. Lewis Small Playmaker of the Game honors with his interception, while Gray’s second touchdown catch, which he pulled down in tight coverage, was named the Play of the Game. D.J. Woods, with a sprinting touchdown catch down the right sideline, came up with the Cutters Catch of the Game.