1997 Results | Game Coverage
Storm Thrash 'Cats 58-34; Face QB ControversyBy Andrew Mason
The Tampa Bay Storm (8-6) clinched the No. 6 seed in the postseason with their biggest road win with their biggest road win since a 43-12 win over Memphis on June 22, 1996, mauling the San Jose SaberCats (8-6) 58-34 in front of 15,240 at the San Jose Arena on Saturday night.
The Storm scored 23 unanswered points in the third quarter to turn a 28-28 tie into a rout. However, the main story of the game was not in the score, but in the name of the man who helped engineer the run---QB Ron Adams.
Adams replaced Peter Tom Willis on the first possession of the second half and promptly turned in the most efficient quarterbacking performance in Storm history. Adams completed 13 of 15 passes for a completion percentage of 86.7 percent, the highest in team history and third-highest in league history. He threw for 136 yards, which included two touchdown passes to Lawrence Samuels. He ran for another, an 18-yard score in the third quarter.
According to the radio broadcast, Marcum slammed the sideline padding so hard that it fell off and down onto the turf. He then chewed out Willis. Willis completed the first half, but when the offense came out onto the field for the second half, Willis had been replaced by Adams.
The irony is that Willis had been enjoying his best half of the season. Willis' final stats for the game were 13 completions in 20 attempts for 123 yards and two touchdowns, both to George LaFrance. LaFrance himself was a replacement, taking the place of starting offensive specialist Wayne Walker.
Walker left the game in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury (again, we're relying on the radio broadcast and the game notes FAXed to us by the SaberCats). He had been starting his second straight game in place of LaFrance, who was benched after the loss to Iowa.
The SaberCats had an equally confounding quarterback quandary. Backup Cree Morris, who had only attempted nine passes all season, started in place of Scott Wood. Was Wood injured? Again, we are relying on the information we have, which does not disclose the reasons for Wood's absence. In any case, Morris was reasonably effective, completing 15 of 22 passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns.
Felling Morris, though, was an offensive line that allowed two Storm sacks in the third quarter. Even worse, both were in the end zone. The first, a Morris sandwich by Willie Wyatt and Jerold Jeffcoat, gave the Storm a 44-28 lead 8:35 into the third quarter. The second came 2:42 later off a sack by Andre Bowden, giving the Storm two straight safeties. The Storm had scored a safety earlier in the third quarter on a fumble out of the end zone, giving the Storm three safeties in just one quarter. The AFL record for safeties in a game was two. In fact, it would be hard to imagine any team in professional football history ever having three safeties in one quarter.
It was a remarkable game in every sense. Among the other records and statistical oddities:
- The Storm allowed a season-high 197 yards in kickoff returns to San Jose's Steve Papin;
- LaFrance had a season-best 145 yards in kickoff returns;
- FB/LB Les Barley had the second longest run in team history, a 39-yard touchdown run in the second quarter;
- K Rich Fall was perfect, going seven-for-seven on extra points and one-for-one on field goals;
- The Storm held San Jose to just 143 total yards, the second lowest total allowed by the Storm in 1997;
- San Jose had minus-four yards rushing, the second-lowest ever permitted by the Storm and the lowest in 1997;
- The Storm had 64 yards rushing, the most of the season, and Barley's 39 yards were the most by any one Storm player this year;
- Adams and Willis combined for 26 completions, the most by the Storm in one game this year;
- Tampa Bay gained 320 total yards, its highest amount of 1997.
Such efforts are a good sign, especially considering that the action will step up several notches for the playoffs. Tampa Bay will travel to Nashville to face the third-seeded Kats next Sunday. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. EDT. The television coverage, if any, has not been announced. Be sure and check the Shelter later in the week for the most comprehensive Storm playoff coverage anywhere.
Thunderclaps...Radio Daze - Throughout the season, Storm fans have had the opportunity to see the action as it happened, thanks to eight home games and five Sunshine Network telecasts. But for this game, unless you had a ticket to the game (hope you enjoyed it, Drop Kick), the only way to follow the game was through the audio stylings of local multimedia personality Jack Harris and sometime 93.3 FLZ disc jockey Jason Dixon. This was the first chance I had to listen to the radio broadcast this year, and it was a vague experience. Vague because I didn't know what was going on for some of the plays and descriptions. One example in particular comes to mind---the discussion of the Storm's playoff possibilities. Harris was reading that the Storm could be the No. 6 seed with a win, but seemed dumbfounded by the concept. How could the Storm be a No. 6 seed, he reasoned, if they had lost to fellow 8-6-finishing Milwaukee? This went on for the better part of the first half. As a listener, I was frustrated and called the offices of WDAE AM-1250 in to see if I could correct them. Fortunately, as I called, Dixon was researching the matter and came up with the proper conclusion---that a head-to-head tiebreaker was not applicable in a three way tie between the Storm, Mustangs and San Jose because Milwaukee and the SaberCats had not met in 1997.
But 1250 did have one moment of intentional humor on Saturday night. That came at Houlihan's Stadium in Tampa during the Redskins-Buccaneers preseason game. With the return of former Buc and current Redskin malcontent Alvin Harper, fans were primed, having come to the stadium to bury him. The station hired a plane to tote a banner that read, "Hey Alvin, you suck!" eliciting a cheer from many fans who shared that sentiment. Unfortunately, as the plane was buzzing over, Harper caught a juggling 60-yard touchdown pass from Gus Frerotte to give the Skins a 7-0 lead en route to a 20-8 victory.
Awards - The Wilson Player of the Game was LaFrance. The Riddell Ironman of the game was Barley.
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