TAMPA — Is the Storm better now than it was a year ago at this time?
You be the judge.
In 2007, the
team didn't win — or hit
the 60-point barrier — until
its sixth game. On Friday night, it did both, and the resulting 69-48 shellacking of the Georgia Force, before an announced crowd of 18,194 at the St. Pete Times Forum, put the team at 2-0. It also left the coach happy, the players excited and the fans dancing in the stands.
"This time last year, they were hiding all the sharp objects from me," Storm coach Tim Marcum said.
How good was this performance?
Moments after the game, Storm players were hooting and hollering in their locker room. The reason?
"I gave them three days off," Marcum said.
On Friday, the Storm was on — from the opening kick until the final horn.
In a league in which it seems nearly every game is decided in the final minute, this game was over midway through the fourth quarter. That was because the Storm did just about everything right. And it helped that practically every bounce went its way.
"We looked good," Storm defensive lineman Tom Briggs said.
That's for sure.
Among the highlights:
• Quarterback Brett Dietz passed for seven touchdowns.
• Receivers Hank Edwards, Terrill Shaw and Sedrick Robinson had two touchdown receptions each. Robinson also scored on a net recovery during a Storm kickoff.
• Briggs found the end zone after intercepting a shovel pass in the third quarter.
• In nine trips to the red zone, the Storm produced points each time.
"We made some plays," Marcum said. "We didn't make many mistakes."
For the most part, the same couldn't be said of Georgia (0-2). The Force was, in a word, sloppy. It committed four turnovers. It was penalized 14 times for 108 yards. And it was only 5-for-7 in the red zone.
Tampa Bay pounced on nearly every Force miscue.
"Coach told us we had to jump on them early and stay on them," Robinson said.
And that was precisely what the Storm did.
After Georgia closed to within 14-13 in the second quarter, Tampa Bay responded when Seth Marler kicked a 19-yard field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, the ball hit the net, bounced over the return man's head and into Robinson's hands at the 6-yard line. He went into the end zone untouched.
Later, with time winding down in the opening half, the Storm stopped Georgia on fourth and 6 from the Tampa Bay 7.
"We had a big stop right before half," Marcum said.
That momentum carried into the second half. And when Briggs scored with 2:15 left in the third quarter, the Storm led 48-27. Tampa Bay was on cruise control the rest of the way to win for the 10th time in its past 12 games.
Now, for the bonus.
"I think we're going to get a lot better," Briggs said.
That would be fine with Marcum, who likes what he sees so far. Especially considering what he experienced last year.
"This," Marcum said, "is a much better football team."