1999 Results | Game Coverage
Who: Florida Bobcats at Tampa Bay Storm
Kicking Off...Tampa Bay begins the first of three consecutive Southern Division games by hosting the Bobcats. The Storm enters the game well-rested thanks to the combination of a bye week last weekend and a Thursday night game at Milwaukee the week before, giving the team 15 full days away from competitive football. There is no such rest for the weary Bobcats, however. After having played in a made-for-ESPN2 Monday night game at Nashville, Florida will enter the Ice Palace with just four full days of rest.
The Coaches...Florida - Bruce Hardy, 1-2 in his first season with the Bobcats, 1-2 in one AFL season.
Tampa Bay - Tim Marcum, 52-15 in his fifth season with the Storm, 107-27 in ten AFL seasons.
In 1999...Florida (1-2) - Lost to New England 45-43, defeated San Jose 78-48, lost to Nashville 63-42.
Tampa Bay (1-1) - Lost to Albany 49-42, defeated Milwaukee 49-42.
Bobcats to Watch...OS Curtis Ceaser - Since joining the Bobcats last season as an AFL rookie, he has been as invigorating as a caffeine I.V., becoming the team's most dynamic offensive threat. He set Bobcat records for touchdowns (24) and points (146) in 1998, and is on an even better pace this season, having scored eight touchdowns in the team's first three games, including four on nine catches Monday night in Nashville. At the moment, he stands as Florida's leader in receptions (21), receiving yardage (354) and touchdowns (eight), helping to offset the loss of Cleveland Pratt to injury in Week One. In his only game against the Storm last season, in Week 11, he caught seven passes for 71 yards and a score, proving to be one of the few bright spots for the Bobcats in an otherwise desultory 59-18 loss.
Of course, there's also the matter of his surname. When the Bobcats came to Tampa last year, three different team officials gave me three different spellings. This confusion continues to reign, as during ESPN2's telecast of the Bobcats' game Monday, the graphics read "Ceaser" while the name on the back of his jersey displayed "CEASAR." All of the Bobcats' publicity materials refer to the Grambling grad as "Ceaser," so, for the moment, that's what we're going to go with.
FB/LB Michael McClenton - One of the league's most consistently effective fullback/linebackers, he nearly won the teams' preseason tussle on April 16, appearing to have scored on a three-yard sweep to the left side. However, the officials ruled that he stepped on the sideline at the one-yard-line, much to the chagrin of the Florida coaches, teammates and fans at the National Car Rental Center. Replays showed that McClenton appeared to go over the pylon before being knocked out of bounds by Les Barley, but the play stood, and the Storm escaped with a 1-1 preseason ledger. He currently ranks third in the league with 57 rushing yards on 17 carries, for a healthy 3.4 yard-per-carry average, and has scored five touchdowns in the first three weeks.
In spite of his success, he is becoming the epitome of the Arenaball journeyman. The Bobcats are his third team and fourth city in the last two years; he spent the 1998 season with the New York CityHawks, who moved to Hartford, Conn. to become the New England Sea Wolves before trading McClenton's rights to the Bobcats. Prior to his Gotham sojourn, McClenton broke into the league with the Orlando Predators, spending two seasons there as the team's secondary FB/LB behind the since-retired Paul McGowan. McClenton has quietly worked his way up the AFL rushing ledger. In just over three seasons, he has amassed 556 rushing yards on 152 carries, for a solid 3.7 yards-per-carry average. Against the Storm, he has participated in four games, averaging 17 yards per game. His best night against Tampa Bay came on May 17, 1997 at the Ice Palace, during the Predators' 43-17 win over the Storm; McClenton gained 30 yards on five carries that night.
1998, though, saw his return, and in spite of Florida's lack of success, he is now firmly entrenched as one of the league's most productive signal-callers, and one of its best team leaders. McNair has thrown 120 touchdown passes since 1996 and thrown for 6,806 yards, and currently finds himself ranked fourth in the league in passer rating for the young 1999 season at 115.7.
Noting the Bobcats...Didn't I See You at Spago? - Much has been made of the Storm's Hollywood jet-setters who worked as extras on the set of Oliver Stone's pigskin opus, On Any Given Sunday. FB/LB Les Barley, linemen Nyle Wiren and Robert "Pig" Goff, DS Tracy Sanders and former kicker Bjorn Nittmo all saw screen time. However, the Bobcats also had five players of their own on the set---linemen Eric Miller, Skip McClendon, Marty Hochertz, Rob Stanavitch and defensive specialist Otis Mounds.
Trading Places - The Bobcats made two trades this week, sending FB/LB George Del Ricco to Portland for lineman Howard Smothers and shipping WR/DB Kerry Brown to New England for fellow WR/DB Mandrell Dean. Smothers is an old foe of the Storm; he was a member of the Predators during their march to the championship last season.
Bobcat Bites - Florida ranks near the middle of the league in nearly all statistical categories. The only category in which they rank either at the top or bottom is in rushing defense, where the 'Cats have allowed a league-high 39.7 yards per game...12 of the Bobcats' 23 scoring drives in 1999 have taken less than 99 seconds (1:39)...Florida has lost eight out of nine Southern Division road games in franchise history, with the lone win coming at Texas by a 48-34 count in 1996; the franchise also lost two other division games when it was known as the Miami Hooters in 1995.
Noting the Storm...Wiren and Dulick activated - Following a full-speed week of practice, FB/LB/OL/DL Nyle Wiren and WR/LB Jason Dulick have been placed on the active roster. To get down to the 24-man limit, the Storm had to remove only one player from the active roster (it had been carrying 23), and the odd man out is rookie DS Carl Greenwood, a former New York Jet who had been deactivated in the Storm's first two games.
Stat Corner - Although the Storm's offense is averaging a robust 319 yards per game, good for third in the league, it has scored just 45.5 points per outing, putting it third---from the bottom...Nearly the reverse is true on the defensive side of the football, where the Storm is giving up 45.5 points per game---good for third best in the league---but is allowing 325 yards per contest, a figure that only the 0-3 Houston ThunderBears are exceeding; the T-Bears have yielded 330 yards per game...The Storm's defense is the second- worst in the league, allowing 35 yards per outing. However, the Bobcats are worse, giving up 39.7 yards per game on the ground...The Storm is the only AFL team to have not made a field goal; K Matt Huerkamp is 0-for-2...However, Huerkamp is one of three league kickers to have hit all of his extra points since starting the season; New England's Mike Black and San Jose's Carlos Huerta are the others...Lineman Robert "Pig" Goff and FB/LB Andre Bowden are tied for second in the league in sacks with two each.
Highs and Lows - WR/LB Stevie Thomas' 37-yard interception return at Milwaukee on April 29 is the second-longest in the AFL this season. It would only be the third-longest, though, if the Mustang statisticians had accurately spotted Thomas at the Storm's 16-yard-line when he made the pick---thus making it just 34 yards in reality...The Storm's five sacks of Milwaukee QB Todd Hammel in that same game are the most by any one team in a game so far this year.
Series History...In their current incarnation as the Florida Bobcats, these clubs have met six times, twice in 1996, 1997 and 1998, with Tampa Bay holding a 6-0 edge. The Storm also won the teams' lone preseason encounter last spring at the Ice Palace. But the history of the Bobcats franchise goes back further than 1996. From 1993 to 1995, they were the Miami Hooters, and they faced the Storm five times, with Tampa Bay winning each one. In 1992, they were the Sacramento Attack, and they did not meet the Storm. Prior to that, they were the Denver Dynamite, and they met the Storm three times in Tampa Bay's inaugural season of 1991---twice in the regular season and once in the playoffs. The teams spilt the regular meetings, and the Storm throttled the Dynamite 40-13 in a playoff game at the then-Florida Suncoast Dome.
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