The Salt Lake Stallions played the first home game of their inaugural season in the Alliance of American Football on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Stallions head coach Dennis Erickson showed a lot optimism following his team’s 23-15 victory over the Arizona Hotshots, Salt Lake’s first win of the season. The announced attendance was 10,412; a modest number, but a crowd that impressed and encouraged Erickson.
“You know, it’s like I’ve always said, ‘This is a football town.’ And once we really get this thing rolling, we’re really going to get a lot of fans in here,” Erickson says.
Stallions quarterback Josh Woodrum threw for 178 yards and scored a touchdown.
“I thought he played really well, made some good throws,” Erickson says.
Woodrum’s number one target was De’Mornay Pierson-El, who ended the day with eight catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. Pierson-El’s play was a major bounce back from earlier weeks, according to Woodrum.
“He’s a really good player. He struggled a little bit last week, but it’s like I say, ‘[There are] ups and downs to this season.’ I think you’ll see him continue to improve,” Woodrum says.
Salt Lake’s defense came to play against Arizona, sacking Hotshots quarterback Josh Wolford three times and forcing him out of the game in the third quarter. Arizona head coach Rick Neuheisel characterized the injury as a lower back sprain.
The injury bug has also plagued the Stallions, who are currently 1-2.
Woodrum missed most of the first game at Arizona and the entire second game against the Birmingham Iron, and former University of Utah star running back Matt Asiata was missing from Saturday’s lineup.
The Stallions, however, have shown signs of improvement from week to week as they continue to get healthy.
The newly-formed AAF aims to function as a developmental system for the National Football League, something Neuheisel says benefits both players and football fans.
“This is a really good league, because it gives guys a second chance,” Neuheisel says. “It’s also just great for the fans to come out to see some football for a reasonable price, and it’s not a super-long game.”
Salt Lake’s next game will be at home versus the Orlando Apollos at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 2. Tickets for Stallions’ games range in price from $19-$100 can be purchased on the AAF website.