1997 Results | Game Coverage
Who: Tampa Bay Storm at San Jose SaberCats
Kicking Off...Tampa Bay and San Jose finish the regular season by meeting for the second time ever. The SaberCats have clinched a playoff spot by virtue of six wins in their last seven games, a streak that started when Scott Wood was inserted at quarterback in place of starter John Kaleo. Wood led the SaberCats to a comeback 37-31 overtime win over Iowa in that game and has been firmly in command since. The Storm will be looking to wrap up a playoff spot. With a win, the Storm will qualify as the sixth seed. If the Storm loses, they can still qualify as the eighth seed if Albany loses at Iowa on Saturday night.
The Coaches...Tampa Bay - Tim Marcum, 35-10 in three seasons with Storm, 90-22 in nine AFL seasons.
San Jose - Todd Shell, 22-18 record in three seasons with the SaberCats, 22-18 record in three AFL seasons.
In 1997...Tampa Bay (7-6) - Defeated Arizona 42-30, defeated Florida 38-19, lost to Orlando 43-17, defeated Nashville 42-26, lost to Milwaukee 52-41, lost to Albany 53-31, lost to New Jersey 44-28, defeated New York 27-9, lost to Orlando 54-30, defeated Texas 40-31, defeated Anaheim 68-43, lost to Iowa 61-38, defeated Florida 48-22.
San Jose (8-5) - Lost to Nashville 47-21, defeated Anaheim 47-27, defeated Albany 41-37, lost to Arizona 59-50, lost to Texas 6-155, lost to Arizona 59-22, defeated Iowa 37-31 (OT), defeated Portland 42-29, lost to New Jersey 24-22, defeated Anaheim 49-35, defeated New Jersey 51-36, defeated Florida 37-26, defeated Portland 40-34.
SaberCats to Watch...QB Scott Wood - With 7:15 left in the SaberCats' game at Iowa on June 14, San Jose trailed 31-17. The SaberCats looked a sure bet to fall to 2-5 and become one of the league's also-rans for the second consecutive season. Then, everything turned around. Wood---who had replaced starter John Kaleo after he had run up ten interceptions in just over six games---led the SaberCats two touchdown drives to tie the score at the end of regulation. He finished off the come-from-behind shocker with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Titus Dixon 7:56 into the overtime period. San Jose hasn't been the same since, winning six of seven. Kaleo was traded less than a week later for WR/LB Jai Hill, who himself has turned into a solid contributor. But Wood was the story. A backup last year to Tony Kimbrough, he watched as the SaberCats bypassed him after Kimbrough suffered a knee injury. San Jose traded for Ben Bennett and John Kaleo in an attempt to fill the signal-caller hole, not realizing that the right man for the job was on the bench all along. He's thrown for 1,442 yards and 22 touchdowns this season, and looks to have the starting job---finally---until the hoped-for return of Kimbrough next season.
OS Steve Papin - Like when the Storm benched offensive specialist George LaFrance last week, the SaberCats made an equally momentous decision by starting the newcomer Papin in the place of incumbent Titus Dixon. Dixon was still in reasonable playing shape, but due to a nagging left hamstring injury, had lost a step compared to previous seasons. Papin has justified the move, scoring as many touchdowns in four games played as Dixon did in ten games (13). Papin is also averaging 7.5 catches and 108 yards receiving per game, as well as 20.3 yards per kickoff return. "He's really dangerous off the net and as a return guy," Marcum said. "He contributes real toughness---he just runs up and is hell-bent for leather. They get the ball to him a lot on screens, and he's dangerous off them, too."
DS Pat McGuirk - An original SaberCat, he has led the SaberCats in tackles for all three years of the franchise's hitory. This year he has notched 53 total tackles, 39 of them unassisted. He is also tied for second on the team with three interceptions, which happens to be the only category that McGuirk's numbers have dropped off in this year. In 1995 he had nine picks and last year he intercepted seven passes. However, when he has made picks this year, he's made them count, especially last weekend at Portland. With 45 second left, he intercepted a Bob Stockham pass with 45 seconds left in the 'Cats' end zone to preserve a 40-34 win.
DS Herschel Currie - San Jose's other defensive specialist, he has become a master of theivery, intercepting seven passes in just nine games played. Currie was not on the team in the preseason, and didn't step into the lineup until mid-May. However, he has proved to be a capable compliment to McGuirk, and together they have helped the SaberCats post the third-ranked pass defense in the league.
Noting the SaberCats...Changes Do Them Good - There are two SaberCats teams in 1997. The first went 2-4 in Weeks One through Six, had the fourth-worst scoring defense in the league and had allowed 59 or more points in three straight games. Since then, the 'Cats have allowed a league-best 30.7 points per game, and have not given up more than 36 points in any one game. Most reflective of this defensive success was their performance against New Jersey on June 27. Although they lost 24-22, the SaberCats' defense held the Red Dogs to 67 fewer points than they had scored just one week earlier in a record-breaking 91-62 win over Texas.
Stats Corner - The SaberCats are all D: They rank second in the league in sacks (18), second in first downs allowed (176), third in passing yards allowed per game (215.4) and third in total defense (232.3 yards allowed per game). Offensively, they are not as productive, ranking 11th in scoring offense (39.5 points per game), 12th in yards per game (241.3), 12th in passing yardage per game (213.2) and tenth in first downs (196).
Tampa Bay/San Jose Connections - OL/DL Theo Adams played for the Buccaneers in 1993, starting at right tackle until holdout LT Paul Gruber returned, pushing interim LT Scott Dill into Adams' spot...WR/DB Willie Culpepper spent 1992 on the Bucs' practice squad...WR/DB "Smokin'" Bret Cooper played for the Storm in 1994.
Noting the Storm...Playoff Possibilities - For a full analysis of the Storm's playoff chances, read Andrew Mason's commentary which analyzes the playoff race as it relates to the Storm.
Kellogg's Progress - Last Thursday the Storm signed WR/LB Jack Kellogg, a 6-1, 190-pound AFL rookie from Eastern Washington. "He's doing well," Marcum said. "Now he's finding a home, and it looks like he's going to fit in to the lineup well." When asked if Kellogg would be activated for Saturday's game, Marcum answered: "Possibly."
Statistically Speaking - Tampa Bay's offense is sixth in the league in first downs with 214, but is 12th in points per game (37.7) and 11th in total yardage (245.7 yards per game)...The Storm's turnover average of minus-seven ranks 11th in the league...Tampa Bay's pass defense is first in the league, allowing just 191.2 yards per contest...The Storm's 24.4 rushing yards per game is sixth in the league...QB Peter Tom Willis must throw two fewer interceptions than Anaheim's John Kaleo this week to avoid the dubious distinction of holding the AFL's single season interception record. Willis has thrown 19; Kaleo, the former SaberCat, has 21...FB/LB Les Barley needs just two rushing yards to get 900 for his career...Willis needs one more touchdown pass to get 40 for the season...OS Wayne Walker has averaged 1.3 touchdowns per game in three games with the Storm...FB/LB Andre Bowden has scored an average of three rushing touchdowns per game in the last three weeks.
Making the Switch - Last week marked the first time since 1988 that Marcum has started someone other than George LaFrance at offensive specialist as Wayne Walker manned the spot for the first time since joining the Storm earlier this month. By all indications, LaFrance---who now lines up at WR/DB for one offensive possession per quarter---has taken it well. "George is a pro," Marcum said. "He's just going to do what he's supposed to do." Walker contributed 200 total yards in last week's win over Florida, which meant that the decision obviously was a wise one. Nevertheless, it's always hard when the time comes to sit down one of the greatest players in AFL history. "It was a tough decision to make, but I do that a lot. That's why they call me coach," he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Injury Front - DS Tracy Sanders missed Wednesday's practice due to a sprained right ankle. He spent the practice with his ankle soaked in a Gatorade bucket filled with ice. He is officially listed as questionable but admitted that he doesn't expect to play...It's not due to an injury, but DS Tracey Perkins' status is up in the air. His grandfather died earlier this week and the funeral is Saturday. If Perkins flies to Houston to attend the funeral, then he will not play against the SaberCats...Lineman Willie Wyatt also spent Wednesday's practice on the sidelines, riding the team exercise bike behind the Ice Palace bench. He is suffering from back pain and his status is also up in the air...Still on injured reserve are WR/DB Larry Kennedy (hamstring), lineman Michael Thornton (ankle), FB/LB Cedric McKinnon (shoulder) and WR/DB Walter Sutton (hamstring).
From the Mouth of Marcum...On the Importance of the Game... - "If you have to be told how important this game is, you're not in the right business."
On the SaberCats... - "Since they replaced Kaleo, they're not the same team. They've won six out of the last seven, and that tells it all about what Scott Wood means to that football team."
On The Lack of TV Coverage... - "We have an agreement with Sunshine [Network] for five games. We picked the games about this time last year or a little later. San Jose was not one of them. We felt like it would be better for the team to have the games on early so it would be like a two and a half hour advertisement, so most of our games were on early in the year."
Series History...The SaberCats and Storm have only met once---last season at the ThunderDome.
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