tampabay.com

Turnovers trouble Storm as winless start continues

Tampa Bay falls to 0-5 with a loss to San Jose.

By KELLY JONES
Published April 1, 2007


SAN JOSE, Calif. — Three turnovers were major factors in the Tampa Bay Storm’s continued franchise slide Saturday.

Tampa Bay suffered a 69-49 loss to San Jose in the SaberCats’ home opener at HP Pavilion, the Storm’s largest margin of defeat since its first game of the season. The Storm fell to 0-5 in the Arena Football League, its worst start in history, having dropped 10 of its past 11 dating to last year.

The problem wasn’t exactly quarterback Stoney Case, who was making his first start in seven years. Case directed the Storm to scores on 7 of 10 possessions, including his 2-yard run in the fourth quarter. He completed 22 of 36 passes with one interception for 271 yards. He was sacked three times.

It would have taken a flawless game for anyone to beat San Jose, which was led by near-perfect quarterback Mark Grieb, and the Storm hurt itself with early snafus. Grieb, who set a league record for passing yards (4,841) in front of backup Case last year, completed 23-of-26 passes, eight for touchdowns, and totaled 284 yards.

The Storm trailed by two touchdowns before Case stepped on the field. Tampa Bay was flagged for penalties on the first two plays of the game, first for illegal defense then for being offside. San Jose hardly needed the help, as Grieb completed a 33-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Wright.

T.T. Toliver fumbled the ensuing kickoff and San Jose kicker A.J. Haglund picked up the ball and ran it into the end zone for a touchdown. The SaberCats led 14-0 before three minutes had elapsed.

Case led the Storm to a touchdown on its first drive. After two incomplete passes, he found Terrill Shaw for a 6-yard reception and Toliver for a 28-yard scoring pass. Toliver caught 12 passes for 162 yards, two for touchdowns.

Tampa Bay scored on all five of its first-half possessions, though each was answered by San Jose. Torrance Marshall rushed for three consecutive touchdowns on runs of 2, 1 and 2 yards. The last one, with 7:38 left in the first half, pulled the Storm within a touchdown at 34-28.

San Jose went up 41-28 on a Grieb 25-yard touchdown pass to Wright. The SaberCats quickly extended that lead to 48-28 when Marquis Floyd intercepted Case’s first pass of the next Storm drive and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown.

Case led Tampa Bay on a 10-play, 37-yard scoring drive, connecting with Shaw in the end zone on a 5-yard completion with 19 seconds to play in the second quarter, making the score 48-35.

Lawrence Samuels intercepted a Grieb pass just before halftime to stop a San Jose drive. It was time in 21 possessions the SaberCats didn’t score.Tampa Bay failed to score on two drives in the second half. One ended in a fumble and the other on an incomplete pass. San Jose scored on eight of nine drives, plus two Storm turnovers.

After a third Storm turnover, a Marshall fumble early in the third quarter, Grieb connected with Wright for a second touchdown. Their 31-yard hookup on the  next play to gave San Jose a 55-35 lead.

Grieb’s favorite target was Ben Nelson, who caught four touchdowns. He caught 10 passes for 114 yards. James Roe also had two touchdown receptions for the SaberCats (2-2).