Storm Lose Another Edition of War on I-4, Larger Questions Loom
As much as I would like to copy and paste most of the articles I have written over the last couple weeks, much like the Tampa Bay Storm have basically “copied and pasted” their efforts on the field the last couple weeks, a 77-65 loss in Orlando on Saturday night has put not only this year’s team, but the franchise at an all-time low.
Yes, it’s harsh. And yes, it may be over the top. However, the difference of just 12 points on the scoreboard does not nearly tell the true story of what really went down in the second installment of this year’s “War on I-4”.
Just as in almost every single game this season for the Storm, Tampa Bay found itself down 14-0 very early and again played in a hole the entire game. Storm QB Randy Hippeard and newly acquired, former Predator, WR T.T. Toliver had the best chemistry on offense throughout the night. Hippeard threw for 380 yards and nine touchdowns, completing 31-of-43 passes. Toliver caught five touchdowns and had 12 receptions for 136 yards in a game the Storm never led.
While the Hippeard-to-Toliver connection was by far the shining light in a very dull night for the Storm, the Tampa Bay defense was a complete letdown. The absence of Storm DB Chris Smith didn’t help the situation either. The 77 points scored by the Predators were the most given up by the Storm all season, and the combined 142 points between the two teams was the most ever in the series history.
As the “Tampa Sucks” chants began to rain down amongst the 5,434 fans at CFE Arena and the diehards began to taunt what was left of a small gathering of the Storm faithful, it was then I realized this was no longer Tampa Bay Storm football. This was no longer the days of Tampa Bay Storm dominance. This was no longer the days where these huge rivalry games would go back and forth and Tampa Bay would at least be able to hang in. This team was intimated, outcoached, and emotionally drained.
Nothing proved this more than bench-clearing brawl that Storm WR Joe Hills found himself tangled up in and what eventually led to his ejection. The various, pathetic personal fouls against Tampa Bay also hurt. “Unnecessary roughness” or “Cussing at an official” were a few of the doozies called against Tampa Bay. This team was rattled and unfocused for the second straight week.
This Tampa Bay Storm franchise is undergoing a major change. It’s not what it used to be. Although it is completely ridiculous for me to call an organization with the most championships and playoff appearances in league history the current “laughing stock” of the league, I’m tempted to do it. This is not all about the disaster in Orlando on Saturday night, this is the big picture.
And it needs to be fixed immediately.