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Storm falls inches short

Tampa Bay's struggles continue as its chance to send the game into OT against Orlando ends inside the 1.

photo
[Times photo: Stefanie Boyar]
Gregory Spann caught a 2-point conversion pass in the end zone to bring the Storm within 8 points during the fourth quarter.
By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 2, 2001


TAMPA -- Though he admits his defenders aren't covering well enough, his quarterback's passes aren't crisp enough and his receivers hands aren't sure enough, Storm coach Tim Marcum isn't sure of the exact reason his team is reeling after opening with six wins.

The problem: He finds new reasons -- and some lingering ones -- every week. And it's starting to concern him, especially after a series of breakdowns and one crucial penalty doomed the Storm to a 46-38 loss Sunday against Orlando at the Ice Palace before 17,634 fans, a team record since it moved to Tampa.

Playing without injured offensive specialist James Bowden and losing his replacement for the second straight game, Storm quarterback John Kaleo threw for a career-high 339 yards. But Kaleo came up a yard short on the last play as Bernard Edwards was tackled a half-yard short of the end zone to foil a rally.

The Storm (8-3) leads Nashville (8-4) by a half-game in the Southern Division and leads Orlando (7-4) by one. It is tied for the league's best record with Grand Rapids, Indiana and San Jose.

"I'm very concerned with where we are now and what we're doing with our offensive execution," Marcum said. "We didn't pitch and catch worth a crap."

After lineman Mel Agee caught a screen pass and bowled in for a 2-yard touchdown with 51 seconds left in the first half, the Storm went 29 minutes, 39 seconds without a touchdown. That helped Orlando turn a 24-24 halftime score into a 46-30 lead.

Though it appeared too late, the Storm ended its touchdown drought on Kaleo's 15-yard pass to Gunnard Twyner and subsequent two-point conversion with 1:13 remaining.

The Predators recovered the onside kick, but they lost yardage on a pitchout and penalties, and failed to run substantial time off the clock. When David Cool missed a 30-yard field goal, the Storm got new life on its 5 with 40 seconds left.

Four plays later, Kaleo hit Clinton Hart to the Predators 1 with 17 seconds left, but Twyner was called for offensive pass interference and the Storm was moved back to the 20. It was a penalty the Storm disputed and Marcum called "critical."

Three pass plays, it was over. With Kenny McEntyre covering, Edwards could not catch the first two passes. When he caught the third, McEntyre and Bret Cooper clobbered Edwards at the 1 to end the game.

"We had the guy there, ready to make the play. All we had to do was pitch and catch the ball," Marcum said. "McEntyre made the first play on the post (pattern), and (Edwards) caught the last ball at the half-yard line. That's just a good example of just not knowing where the heck you are on the field and not having the idea of 'I got to get it in the end zone. I've got to throw the ball in the end zone. The ball's got to get in the end zone.' "With six seconds left, the ball has to go in the end zone."

Scoring touchdowns was a game-long dilemma for the Storm. After coming back from a 24-7 deficit in the second quarter to tie the score at halftime, Tampa Bay mustered two field goals, one missed field goal, and one Kaleo interception on its first four possessions of the second half.

Tampa Bay's offensive woes were compounded by another injury, this one to Sir Mawn Wilson, who started in Bowden's place. Wilson had four catches for 91 yards in the first half but injured his knee on a kickoff return with 9:12 left in the third quarter.

Kaleo was 23 of 51 but, despite the career-high yardage, threw just three touchdowns and rushed for another. He was intercepted twice by former USF and King High standout Clif Dell.

Craig Whelihan, the game MVP, threw five touchdowns, including a 27-yarder to Cooper that gave the Predators the lead for good early in the third quarter.

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