July 6, 1996
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.- Saturday night's game against the Florida Bobcats was likely the craziest game the Storm will have this year. And the wackiness started before the game did. Bus problems cause the Storm to be late in ariving to the West Palm Beach Auditorium, arriving less than an hour before the game started. And the ending...well, it was even crzier than the beginning.
As might be expected, both by the bus incidentand the Storm's usual slow start, Tampa Bay fell behind 7-0 early and were forced to settle for a field goal on the next possession. The key was that it was a 52-yard field goal by Jorge Cimadevilla, who entered the game having made just two of 17 field goal attempts in 1996.
On the first play after the kickoff, Florida's Cleveland Pratt fumpled, and Johnnie Harris recoverd for the Storm, leading to a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jay Gruden to George LaFrance.
Both teams then started trading scores and mistakes, missing golden opportunities all around. The Storm turned the ball over twice in side the Bobcat 10. At the half, the game was knotted at 17.
Unlike last week, when the Storm was victimized at the start of the second half, the Storm took the kickoff and tried to take control of the game. Gruden hit Lonnie Turner for a 34-yard touchdown on the third play of the half. After the Bobcats fumbled away the kickoff, Tampa Bay wasted little time making Florida pay. Gruden hit Stevie Thomas in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown and a 30-17 lead. But while the lead may have seemed safe, it was not. The game was just beginning.
The teams traded touchdowns and the Storm led 36-24 entering the fourth quarter. Then after they'd cut the lead to 36-27, Florida's Anthony Hamlet delivered one of the most vicious hits Gruden has ever experienced. Gruden fumbled, the Bobcats recovered, and eventually scored a touchdown that cut the lead to two.
When Gruden came back on the field, he was still suffering from the hit. Two plays after he came back, he threw an interception. The Bobcats had the ball, down by two, with 3:38 to go. First-and-ten soon became fourth-and-one. Florida coach Jim "Crash" Jensen chose to bypass a go-ahead field goal attempt and handed it to Travis Pearson. It wasn't even close. A wave of Storm defenders stopped Pearson short.
With only one timeout left for the Bobcats and one minute left in the game, the Storm needed only to get positive yardage three times to run out the clock. They didn't do it. Cimadevilla came on for a long field goal try that Florida blocked out of the end zone for a safety and a tie game.
When they got the ball, Florida drove to the Storm's 15-yard line. With 12 seconds to go, Florida kicker Steve Videtich came on to try a 30-yard field goal. He sailed it wide right, missing by less than two feet.
After a quick out pass to Stevie Thomas to the Storm's 18, Cimadevilla came on to try a game winning field goal from 47 yards. The snap was down, and...
"From the sound of it, I knew he hit it good," Gruden, the holder said.
And it was over. The ball hit the top of the field goal net, giving the Storm the win.
For Cimadevilla, the game had to feel good after his travails of the first 8 games.
"It feels great, especially after the season I've had," he said.
"I love Cimadevilla," Storm FB/LB Ivan Caesar said. "If I was a girl, I'd give him some."
After tonight's game, many Storm fans might agree.
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