1998 Results | Game Coverage
Who: Nashville Kats at Tampa Bay Storm
Kicking Off...Two teams expected to fight with Orlando for the Southern Division championship meet in a key early season test when the Kats make their first trip to Tampa Bay to take on the Storm. Nashville, in its second year of existence, has only lost five games in 16 tries, but two of those setbacks came against Tampa Bay.
The Coaches...Nashville - Eddie Khayat, 11-5 record in his second season with the Kats, 15-11 record in three AFL seasons.
Tampa Bay - Tim Marcum, 38-11 in his fourth season with the Storm, 93-23 in ten AFL seasons.
In 1998...Tampa Bay (1-0) - Defeated San Jose, 45-23.
Nashville (1-0) - Defeated Houston, 64-40.
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 didn't affected his play; he finished the 1997 season second on the Kats in receptions (50) and receiving yardage (607), had two interceptions and was second on the team with 49 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 and in parts of three games in 1996. Combined with his 1993 stint, he played in 22 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 performance in 1997 shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. Kelly's 113.8 passer rating was fifth in the league. He finshed third in the league in passing yardage (3,821), third in completions (309) and first in touchdowns with an astounding 82. He picked up right where he left off in last week's win over Houston, completing 20 of 29 passes for 204 yards and four touchdowns. Kelly holds a respectable 1-3 mark against the Storm, adding in the Kats' losses to the Storm last year and the split of the Charlotte-Tampa Bay series in 1993. 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. Kelly was named MVP of that game as he completed 20 of 42 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns.
WR/LB Cory Fleming - As with Kelly, he was drafted by the Kats due to his marquee value as a former UT Volunteer. However, the former Dallas Cowboy has proved that he can be an outstanding player in this league, regardless of where he went to college. Fleming did not become the team's No. 1 receiver until OS Khevin Pratt left for the NFL after Week Six of the 1997 season. Since, he has turned into a force. Fleming led the Kats and finished ninth in the league with 89 receptions for 1,104 yards. His 32 receiving touchdowns were bested only by Eddie Brown's 35 for Albany. Perhaps the only difficulty Fleming might have been forced to endure in Arenaball would be on defense, as he was a receiver by trade before joining the league. However, he finished sevemth on the team in tackles with 23 and was third on the Kats with three interceptions from his jill linebacker spot. He began 1998 with similar success, intercepting a Clint Dolezel pass last week and catching six passes for 62 yards and three scores.
Noting the Kats...Born a Ramblin' Man - FB/LB Andre Allen, acquired in the offseason from Iowa, rambled through the ThunderBear defense for 40 yards on eight carries last week. The 40 yards was a Kats record, and was significant considering that Nashville's leading rusher last year, Terrence Samuels, managed only 97 yards for the entire season.
Regal Rookies - Kats WR/DB Corey Johnson has been a tackling machine, leading Nashville in tackles throughout the preseason and into last week. He also intercepted two passes last week, returning one for a score, bringing his 1998 tally (including preseason games) to four interceptions and 27 tackles, a team high...Defensive specialist Kirk Pointer was second behind Johnson in tackles, tallying nine total stops last week in the win over Houston.
Battered Kats - FB/LB Peter Tuffo was placed on injured reserve with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in last week's win over the ThunderBears...Already on the injured reserve list for the Kats were WR/DB Will Harris, lineman Junior Ili, WR/DB Joe Campbell, WR/DB Buster Owens, DS Weylan Harding and DS Jamie Coleman.
Tampa Bay/Nashville Connections - 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...Kats WR coach Jeff Mayes played with the Storm from 1991-94...Kicker Jorge Cimadevilla booted for two seasons with the Storm (1995-96)...Coach Eddie Khayat served as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive line coach in 1992 and 1993...OS Lonnie Turner was the Storm's No. 3 receiver in 1996...Kats DS Rogerick Green was a fourth-round draft choice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of Kansas State in 1992.
Noting the Storm...A Natural Bjorn Kicker - Tuesday the Storm signed K Bjorn Nittmo to replace incumbent Rich Fall. Nittmo, a 31-year-old native of Lomma, Sweden, has not kicked in the Arena Football League since 1993, when he kicked for former Storm assistant Dave Whinham with the Cleveland Thunderbolts. He has since kicked in the Canadian Football League with the Shreveport Pirates and spent last summer in camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Before joining the Bucs, he intended to kick for the Storm, but had a mere cup of coffee with the team, lasting two days before the call from One Buccaneer Place beckoned. "I hope [Bjorn] brings keeking touchdowns," Marcum said in his best Latka Gravas impersonation. "We were not getting keeking touchdowns."
For Openers - The Storm has not lost a home opener since 1994, when the Charlotte Rage defeated the defending World Champs 44-39 at the Dome Formerly Known as Thunder. Tampa Bay defeated Charlotte 34-16 to open the 1995 home slate, frightened the then-Texas Terror 62-27 to open '96 and knocked out the Bobcats 38-19 in 1997. Overall, Tampa Bay is 5-2 in home openers; the Storm lost its first in 1991 to Orlando by a 51-38 count.
Wayne's World - Storm WR/DB Wayne Walker has made quite an impression in just five Arena Football regular season games. Signed by the Storm on July 3 of last year, Walker made his debut nine days later against the Anaheim Piranhas, catching three passes for 79 yards and a score. In his Storm career, he has averaged 17.1 yards per catch and made six catches of more than 30 yards. Three of those long hauls came against the SaberCats---he made receptions of 42, 41 and 37 yards, scoring on the 42- and 37-yarders.
A Case for the Defense - The Storm's defense leaped forward to a strong start to the 1998 season. Tampa Bay allowed San Jose just two total yards in the first period, while the Storm's offense racked up 93. The Storm held the'Cats to two touchdowns; that total was the least allowed by Tampa Bay since they permitted the New York CityHawks just one touchdown in a 27-9 win on 6/21/97.
A F(el)ine Mess - Tampa Bay is unbeaten in games against teams with some derivative of "cats" in their nickname. The Storm is 4-0 against the Florida Bobcats, 2-0 against the Nashville Kats, and, after last week's win, 3-0 against the San Jose SaberCats. All of the games against the Meow Mix club have taken place in the last three seasons.
Countdowns - FB/LB Les Barley is 20 yards away from becoming the first player in Arena Football League history to rush for 1,000 yards; he added 41 yards last week to his career-leading total, which now stands at 977 yards...Bowden, who gained one yard on the ground last week, needs 59 yards to move into fourth place in league history in rushing; he currently has 634 yards on 191 carries...FB/LB Cedric McKinnon needs 90 yards to move into third place in league annals; he was deactivated against San Jose but has 747 yards in six seasons headed into 1998...OS George LaFrance needs 53 yards on kickoff returns to hit the 7,000-yard mark...LaFrance also needs 14 receptions for 500 and 69 yards receiving for 7,000...Lineman Sylvester Bembery, the league's all-time leading sacker, needs one to get to 40 for his career...With just eight more points, WR/LB Stevie Thomas will hit the 800-point figure for his career; he ranks fourth all-time in that category...In the same department, LaFrance needs 60 points for 1,000; he ranks second behind Orlando's Ironman, Barry Wagner...WR/LB Lawrence Samuels is seven catches away from 100 for his career...Storm coach Tim Marcum is just seven wins away from becoming the first Arena Football League coach to reach the century mark in victories.
From the Mouth of Marcum...On Les Barley being 20 yards from 1,000 - "In Arena Football, that's like 10,000 yards...100 yards per game is unheard of. That's because run plays are our trick plays."
On P.T.'s Success Against San Jose... - "P.T. called his own plays in the first half [against the SaberCats] and he seemed to do well with that; he went 13-for-14."
Series History...The Storm and Kats have met twice, with the Storm winning both meetings. Tampa Bay defeated the Kats 42-26 last May 23 and 52-49 in the first round of the postseason last August 10. Check out our coverage of the regular season game. and the playoff clash.
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