1997 Results | Game Coverage
Who: New Jersey Red Dogs at Tampa Bay Storm
Kicking Off...Two of the league's surprise teams---but surprises for different reasons---meet as the Storm kicks off a two-game homestand by taking on New Jersey Red Dogs. The Storm have lost two straight to fall to a disappointing 3-3, while the expansion Red Dogs have used wins over defending ArenaBowl finalist Iowa and division rival Albany to bolt to a 5-1 start, which is tied for the best expansion start in league history with the St. Louis Stampede's 5-1 opening in 1995. And Did You Know That...If the Storm lose this game, it will mark the deepest into a season that the Storm has been saddled with a losing record. Before, the Storm had never had a losing record any later than the third week of the season---in 1994, the team was 1-2 before going over .500 with a 40-33 win at Cleveland.
The Coaches...New Jersey - John Hufnagel, 5-1 record in first season with the Red Dogs, 5-1 record in first AFL season.
Tampa Bay - Tim Marcum, 31-7 in three seasons with the Storm, 86-19 in nine AFL seasons.
In 1997...New Jersey (5-1) - Defeated Anaheim 33-32, defeated Iowa 45-21, lost to Florida 44-28, defeated New York 59-27, defeated Albany 53-52 (overtime), defeated Nashville 59-55.
Tampa Bay (3-3) - Defeated Arizona 42-30, defeated Florida 38-19, lost to Orlando 43-17, defeated Nashville 42-26, lost to Milwaukee 51-42, lost to Albany 53-31.
Red Dogs to Watch...QB Rickey Foggie - Foggie is not completely unfamiliar with the Storm, though. He quarterbacked the Minnesota Fighting Pike in their matchup with Tampa Bay on May 24 of last year. The Storm blitzed the Pike 41-16, and Foggie looked like the first-year AFL quarterback he was, completing just 15 of 37 passes for 160 yards, one touchdown and one interception before being yanked in favor of backup Jeff Loots. After last season, he was not expected to play in the league, as he was not drafted in the dispersal draft for expansion teams. But after starter Aaron Garcia was injured two weeks ago, Foggie was called in. He replaced Garcia's replacement, Carlos Garay, midway through the Dogs' game with Albany and led New Jersey to a 53-52 overtime win, as he passed for 192 of the team's 299 yards through the air. Hufnagel gave Foggie his first start one week later at Nashville, and he responded by completing 19 of 32 passes for a team-record 247 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown and led the Dogs with nine yards on the ground.
OS Larry Ray Willis - Befitting a surprising team, Willis has been the most surprising of Red Dogs, assuming the star's role in just his first Arena Football season. He didn't join the team until early May, too late to make the club's media guide. However, in just five games of action, he has become New Jersey's first bona fide go-to player, ranking ninth in the league with 32 catches, seventh with 518 yards receiving and tied for second with the Storm's George LaFrance with 92 points on 15 touchdowns and two two-point conversions. He caught all three of Foggie's touchdown passes last week, including a 44-yarder to open scoring early in the first quarter. By the time the game was done, he had seven catches for 107 yards. He also has notched 100 yards or more in receiving yards in each of the last three games. "He was a steal for us," Hufnagel said in a release. "We brought him in and it's all just clicked for him. He has speed and knowledge of how to get open and get things done."
WR/DB Alvin Ashley - Another member of the Fighting Pike who left the pond for the pound, Ashley has finally found team success to go along with the individual variety he had in 1996 with Minnesota in their only season. He led the Pike in touchdowns (19) and receiving yards (971). Unlike Foggie, he had a good game in the Storm's thumping of the Pike, catching 11 passes for 109 yards and a nine-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. He stands 5-11 and weighs just 140 pounds according to the Red Dogs' media release, but still leads the team in solo tackles with 28. In addition, he has gained a team-leading 596 total yards via receiving and returns, and he has found the end zone eight times, good for second on the team behind Larry Ray Willis. However, his biggest play of the season was not on offense or defense, but on special teams. In the final minute of last week's win over Nashville, Ashley recovered a missed Steve Videtich field goal attempt on the two-yard-line and ran in for a touchdown that gave the Dogs an insurmountable 59-49 lead.
DS Adrian Lunsford - Yet another of the Minnesota alumni club, he has become ringleader of the Red Dogs' defense. New Jersey selected him fifth overall in the expansion draft after he notched seven interceptions in 1996, returning a league-best two for touchdowns. He has shown no signs of slowing down this season, picking off a team-best four passes, including one that was returned for a touchdown. Lunsford is tied for second on the Dogs in total tackles with 29, including 18 solo stops. He also leads New Jersey with seven passes defensed.
Noting the Red DogsNot-So Wretched Refuse - The Red Dogs play in Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., just a stone's throw from New York and the Statue of Liberty. And just the statue greeted the wayward and the yearning searching for a new home, New Jersey has been the same for many Red Dogs players who were picked during the league's dispersal draft of folded-up franchises in Charlotte, Connecticut, St. Louis and Minnesota. Already spoken for is the Minnesota contingent, represented admirably by Foggie, Ashley, Lunsford, FB/LB Norm Brown and defensive coordinator Frank Haege. Representing the Charlotte Rage are FB/LB Chad Lindsey, the team's leader in total tackles, linemen Scott Miller, Robert Stewart and John Zinser (on injured reserve) and equipment manager John Nail. From St. Louis comes lineman Marty Hochertz (on the inactive list) and from Connecticut comes DS Willie Gaston, QB Aaron Garcia and FB/LB Basil Proctor. In a twist of fate, all three former Coyotes are on the injured reserve list.
Woof, Frickin' Woof - This is the Red Dogs' motto. Seriously. On the front, back and inside cover of the media guide are these words. While it's simple to see that the motto is intended to inspire toughness, it also begs the question: When have we ever heard a dog say, "Woof, frickin' woof"?
Quotable - From Hufnagel, on the team's progression throughout the season: "Every week, our goal is to get better---and we've done that each game---with the exception of the game we lost against Florida. We can't make as many mental errors. We have to play smarter [and] commit less penalties."
Tampa Bay/New Jersey Connections - Red Dogs OL/FB/Special Teams coach Chris Conlin was a member of the Storm's 1995 ArenaBowl championship team ...New Jersey WR/DB Amod Field was a member of the Storm's 1993 championship team...Marty Lyons, who will broadcast the game back to the Northeast for SportsChannel, is a graduate of St. Petersburg Catholic High School...New Storm K Rich Fall flew from his New Jersey home to join the Storm.
Noting the Storm...Statistically Speaking - For the first time in recent memory, the Storm is allowing more points than they are scoring---they are being outscored 37.2 to 35.2...The Storm ranks seventh in total offense with 249.2 yards per game but is 11th in scoring offense. However, their 106 first downs put them in a tie for tops in the league...Perhaps the reason the Storm isn't scoring more is because of turnovers---Tampa Bay has a league-worst -8 turnover margin...A 41-yard rushing effort pushed the Storm to fifth in the league in rushing with 26.5 yards per game; however, the Storm's rushing defense has slipped to tenth after facing three of the league's top four rushing teams in the last four games (Orlando, Milwaukee and Albany)...Both the Red Dogs and Storm are among the league's most penalized teams---the Red Dogs have the second-most penalties in the league (64), and the Storm have the third-highest total (61).
Injury Front - Of course, the major story is QB Peter Tom Willis and his recovery from bruised ribs suffered in last week's loss at Albany. Willis threw for the first time all week on Wednesday, although he did so in street clothes. Willis, who is officially listed as day-to-day, should practice on Thursday and expects to start on Saturday, according to Marcum. WR/DB Walter Sutton has been practicing at full speed this week for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury three weeks ago. DS Tracey Perkins continues to have difficulty with a pulled left hamstring suffered in practice three days before the Albany game, but has continued to practice and should play on Saturday. WR/DB Wayne Williams injured a knee during Wednesday's practice; his status for the game is uncertain. In addition, OL/DL Lynn Rowland continues to be on injured reserve with an ankle injury; he should miss two to four more weeks.
Getting His Kicks - New K Rich Fall will wear Johnnie Harris' old jersey number (#3) when he debuts as the Storm's golden toe on Saturday night. He will be replacing the ineffective Terry Belden, who was waived on Wednesday afternoon. Cut from camps of the CFL's Toronto Argonauts and the World League's Amsterdam Admirals, Fall was brought to the attention of Marcum because of a tryout Iowa gave him last week. He arrived in Tampa on Tuesday night from his New Jersey home and delivered an impressive workout on the Tampa Prep fields Wednesday morning, consistently kicking the ball the length of the field both on kickoff and field goal scenarios. He got used to the grass, but didn't seem to be getting used to the 90-degree heat and relentless Florida humidity. When asked his height and weight, he responded, "I weigh about 190, but I've probably lost about ten pounds today because of this heat," he said.
From the Mouth of Marcum...On the Red Dogs' Success - "They're for real. It's not a fluke. They're a real good football team."
On Preparing for Foggie Instead of Garcia - "[Foggie's] different in that he's a lot more mobile. He likes the quarterback draw; he likes to run the loaded play down near the goal line. We hope that we've got an idea what he's gonna do."
Series History...Saturday's meeting is the first in the series.
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