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The One-Sided Affair on I-4

Connor Akeman
Saturday June 25, 2016

“We did not show up at all… We are going to eliminate some of the distractions around here and evaluate each and every one of our players. It’s no excuse to have the mistakes that we do, I take full responsibility,” Tampa Bay Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels said after his team was blown out last week at home against the Los Angeles KISS.

Well, with the addition of a few new acquisitions and the elimination of some of those certain “distractions”, the Storm packed up this circus show and headed on down to Orlando for the third and final regular season meeting with the rival Predators on Friday night.

And for the third time, it didn’t go well.

The Storm dropped this one 56-33 to fall to 1-11 on the season. This was the Storm’s sixth consecutive loss to their cross-state rivals. And boy, have they been ugly. The Predators have now outscored the Storm 174-98 in the three meetings this season. And for the Storm’s sake, maybe we can declare this rivalry dead.

Tampa Bay scored five total touchdowns in this particular game, four of which newly acquired WR Prechae Rodriguez was responsible for. Rodriguez finished the game with 13 catches for 113 yards. So, there’s your bright spot.

Orlando backup (yes backup) quarterback Bernard Morris completed 16-of-23 passes for 131 yards and five touchdowns. No picks. Again, that’s “backup” QB Bernard Morris playing for the injured Predators' starter Randy Hippeard.

His counterpart, Jason Bolus completed 29-of-45 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns for the Storm. Boltus however, did throw three interceptions.

An underrated downfall for Tampa Bay on Friday night was the fact that the team was called for a season-high 13 penalties for 110 yards. Predators were whistled for just four. Penalties sure seemed to smother any small bit of momentum the Storm could muster up throughout the game.

Look, the more and more I review this Tampa Bay roster, the more and more I wonder how it’s possible for them to be this bad. This group does not lack talent.

Record-wise, we are already looking at what will be the worst finish in Storm team history by far. A roster with the likes of an AFL legend in T.T. Toliver, veteran quarterback Jason Boltus, and now an emerging star in Prechae Rodriguez, makes the 1-11 Storm even more difficult to figure it out. Nothing seems to work. What is it exactly holding this team back?

Now, I don’t want it to sound like the Storm are fighting tooth and nail every week, losing last minute buzzer-beating heartbreaker type games; that couldn’t be further from the truth. These games are blowouts. Difficult to watch blowouts. But, it’s certainly not due to a lack of skill or effort.

Coaching? Chemistry? Game-planning? What is it? We all have our varying opinions. But, we can all agree on one thing. This team has talent. We see glimpses, as small as they may be. This is a team, after all, that knocked off the dominant Arizona Rattlers just a handful of weeks ago. But even then, did the Storm really play their best possible game?

There are legendary coaches and future hall of fame players that make up the nucleus of this Storm organization, yet we still see results like the one on Friday night. The problem has been piecing it all together, and for that I suppose we wait.

13 weeks and counting… Heck, 3 years and counting…

Connor Akeman is a freelance sports writer and aspiring radio broadcaster who resides in Tampa, FL. A Tampa native, he considers himself emotionally invested in the Rays, Buccaneers, and Lightning by enjoying season tickets to all three teams. He has followed the Storm since the early Tim Marcum days and can remember attending his first ever Arena Football game in 2007. Studying Mass Communications/Journalism, Connor graduated from the University of South Florida in May 2017. He has spent time with and has been published by the Orange County Register in Anaheim, CA as well as other outlets. He currently contributes to of SB Nation. You can follow Connor on Twitter @ConnorAkeman.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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