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Replacements lift Storm to win
Clif Dell, Lynaris Elpheage and Anthony Derricks take over for traded veterans and key a 48-38 win over Georgia.
By FRANK PASTOR
Published April 3, 2005
TAMPA - When the Storm traded All-Ironman receiver/defensive back T.T. Toliver and veteran receiver/linebacker David Saunders last week, fans responded with a collective, "For who?"
If Saturday was any indication, it might not matter.
Three players already on Tampa Bay's roster, receivers/defensive backs Clif Dell, Lynaris Elpheage and Anthony Derricks, made the most of their increased playing time in a 48-38 win over the Georgia Force before 15,114 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Dell caught two touchdowns. Elpheage had a touchdown reception and onside kick recovery, and Derricks recovered a fumble as the Storm improved to 5-0 at home.
Shane Stafford threw five touchdowns, two to Freddie Solomon, and the Storm forced four turnovers while allowing its second-fewest points of the season. Only San Jose scored fewer in a 63-33 loss Jan.30.
By snapping a two-game losing streak, Tampa Bay (5-4) pulled to within 11/2 games of Southern Division-leading Georgia (7-3), which entered with the league's best record. Orlando (6-3), which plays Los Angeles today, and New Orleans (6-4) drew closer.
The victory evened interim coach Dave Ewart's record at 1. He took over for Tim Marcum, who was suspended for four games spanning this and next season for salary-cap violations during 2003 and '04. Marcum will return for Saturday's game against Orlando.
Georgia lost its coach, Doug Plank, on the final play of the third quarter when he was hit in the head by offensive specialist Troy Bergeron's helmet as Bergeron went through the sideline door while pulling in a pass.
The teams exchanged leads seven times before Tampa Bay took control thanks to a couple of onside kicks in the final minute of the first half.
Trailing 28-24, the Storm got a break when a Georgia penalty gave it the ball after David White muffed a Force onside kick. Georgia was called for an illegal block before the ball went 10 yards, and Solomon caught a 5-yard touchdown on the next play to put the Storm up 31-28 with 49 seconds left. Tampa Bay got the ball right back when Elpheage recovered a Matt George onside kick and returned it for an apparent score. The ball was brought back to the Storm 20, but Elpheage got into the end zone two plays later by catching a 30-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 38-28.
After Nelson Garner's 40-yard field goal pulled Georgia back to 38-31 at the half, the Storm stopped the Force on its opening possession of the second half. Tampa Bay drove to the Georgia 1, but Stafford's fourth-down pass was incomplete. Georgia's drive ended as soon as it began as lineman Mike Sutton intercepted a Nagy screen pass. Stafford was intercepted in the end zone, but Derricks got the ball back for Tampa Bay as he batted a Robert Thomas fumble out of the end zone for a touchback.
The Storm didn't squander that opportunity as Dell caught a 6-yard touchdown to give Tampa Bay its biggest lead to that point, 45-31 with 8:32 left in the game.
STORM FLURRIES: Storm lineman Nyle Wiren was ejected after a roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter. ... Lineman Kelvin Kinney limped off the field, appearing to favor his right leg, early in the second quarter. He did not return. ... Derricks left with an undisclosed injury in the fourth quarter. ... Lineman Jimond Pugh, who left the team in January, returned and was placed on injured reserve. ... Lineman Mike Lawson was inactive.