1997 Results | Game Coverage
Who: Tampa Bay Storm at Nashville Kats
Kicking Off...It's going to be a pigskin family reunion when the Storm go up to Nashville to take on the expansion Kats. Nashville has gotten off to a surprising 2-1 start thanks in no small part to the team's coordinators. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Pat Sperduto are both Storm alums, and each own championship rings from the 1991, 1993 and 1995 seasons. Gruden earned an additional ring in 1996 while Sperduto was the defensive coordinator of the Connecticut Coyotes. But the keys to the game on the field for Nashville will not be former Storm players, but former members of the Charlotte Rage. In particular, QB Andy Kelly and offensive specialist Khevin Pratt have been lethal in the season's first three games. However, they will be surely tested by the Storm's defense, which ranks first in the league after three games. In addition, the Tampa Bay secondary, hampered by injuries since the start of training camp, is fully healthy for the first time in 1997.
The Coaches...Tampa Bay - Tim Marcum, 30-5 in three seasons with the Storm, 85-17 in nine AFL seasons.
Nashville - Eddie Khayat, 2-1 record in first season with the Kats, 6-7 record in two AFL seasons.
In 1997...Tampa Bay (2-1) - Defeated Arizona 42-30, defeated Florida 38-19, lost to Orlando 43-17.
Nashville (2-1) - Defeated San Jose 47-21, defeated New York 42-39, lost to Texas 48-44.
Kats to Watch...WR/DB Darryl Hammond - In spite of being one of the best two-way players in league history, he has bounced around the league like a journeyman, going from Albany to St. Louis to the Kats after the Stampede folded following the 1996 season. However, he has posted some impressive stats along the way, as he is the league's active leader in tackles with 317 and ranks ninth in receceptions with 253 and 11th in receiving yardage with 2,982. Known mostly as a defensive player during his four years in Albany, he busted out offensively during his two years in St. Louis, catching 154 passes for 1,839 yards and 28 touchdowns. Hammond's new venue hasn't affected his play; he ranks second on the Kats in receptions (16) and receiving yardage (196), has an interception and a team-leading 18 total tackles.
QB Andy Kelly - Die-hard Arena Football fans might remember Kelly from his 1993 stint with the Charlotte Rage. But the reason he's the Kats' signal-caller is because fans in Tennessee remember his 1988-91 stint at the University of Tennessee. In those circles, he's best remembered for leading the Volunteers to a win at Notre Dame in his senior season. As a result, the Kats made him the top pick in the expansion draft last November. Kelly played for the Rhein Fire of the World League for the better part of the last two seasons, but found time to play six games for the Rage in 1995. Combined with his 1993 stint, he played in 19 games with the Rage and when the team folded after the 1996 season, the final stats showed Kelly as the franchise leader in passing yardage, attempts, completions and touchdown passes. In addition, the Rage's only non-losing season, a 6-6 campaign, came in 1993, the only season Kelly started all of Charlotte's games. So perhaps his fast start this season shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Kelly's 163.2 passer rating is second in the league behind Texas' Clint Dolezel after three weeks. He leads the league in passing yardage (869), passing touchdowns (15), completions (67) and attempts (110). In addition, Kelly holds a respectable 1-1 mark against the Storm, as they and the Rage split their 1993 season series. Tampa Bay hammered the Rage 52-19 in the team's first 1993 meeting (6/5/93), but in the rematch in Charlotte on July 9, the Rage stunned the Storm, 40-38.
OS Khevin Pratt - Another member of the Charlotte alumni club, Pratt has been lethal as Kelly's top weapon. Pratt leads the league in catches (27), receiving yardage (379) and receiving touchdowns (seven). Overall, he ranks second in the league in scoring with 42 points, 12 behind Orlando's Barry Wagner. Pratt sat out 1996 after catching 91 passes for 1,492 yards and 24 touchdowns in 17 games over the 1994 and 1995 seasons with the Rage. After spending 1996 away from Arena Football, he has returned with a vengeance.
Noting the Kats...
Tampa Bay/Nashville Connections - Kats offensive coordinator Jay Gruden set all of Tampa Bay's passing records in his six seasons with the Storm (1991-96)...Offensive coordinator Pat Sperduto won three championship rings in five years with the Storm, playing for three seasons (1991-93) and coaching as an assistant for two (1994-95)...General Manager Billy McGehee served with the Storm as Director of Marketing and Sponsorship from 1993 to 1995...Vice President of Communications Denny Petro was the Storm's public address announcer and weekly radio show host in 1995...Kicker Jorge Cimadevilla booted for two seasons with the Storm (1995-96)...OL/DL Joe March played a prominent role on the lines, helping the team to three championships in four seasons (1993-96)...OL/DL Willie Fears, who is on injured reserve, played for the Storm last season...Coach Eddie Khayat served as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive line coach in 1992 and 1993.
Noting the Storm...Statistically Speaking - Tampa Bay is tops in the league in total defense, allowing just 189.7 yards per game. However, the Storm's offense is averaging just 32.3 points per outing after a franchise-low 17-point performance in last week's thrashing at the hands of Orlando...Tampa Bay ranks third in scoring defense, allowing 30.7 points per game...Almost unbelievably, the Storm has no sacks so far this season...The Storm is eighth in the league in total offense (224.3 yards per game) and 12th in scoring offense, but ranks third in first downs with 53...Storm receivers Stevie Thomas and George LaFrance rank eighth and ninth, respectively, among league leaders in receiving yards. LaFrance is fourth in receptions with 21; Thomas is tied for sixth in that category with 18...LaFrance is second in the league in all-purpose yardage, averaging 163 per game.
McKinnon and Barley Chase the Record - FB/LBs Les Barley and Cedric McKinnon rank second and third, respectively, on the AFL's all-time rushing list. Barley rushed three times for eight yards last week, giving him 239 carries for 791 yards on his career. He is now 54 yards behind all-time leader Major Harris. McKinnon, who has been deactivated from the last two games with a hairline fracture in his foot, stands pat with 735 career yards on 194 carries.
Injury Front - For the first time all season, the Storm will be relatively free of injuries. WR/DB Antoine Worthman and DS Johnnie Harris both got in full weeks of practice for the first time since before the season. However, DS Tracy Sanders will miss the game due to job committments. WR/DB Larry Kennedy will fill in for Sanders, according to Marcum.
From the Mouth of Marcum...On the Significance of Beating Nashville... - "This will be a big win for us if we can get it. All of them are [after] you lose one."
On Gruden's Desire to Beat the Kats, and Whether the Game Is Especially Meaningful for the Storm... - "You always want to beat the place where you left. I haven't ever left Nashville. I want to beat them because they're the next opponent."
Series History...Friday's game is the first in the series. The teams will not meet again in the 1997 regular season.
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