TAMPA — Something had to give when the Storm hosted Kansas City on Friday night.
The Command entered the contest having given up the second-most points in the AFL this season. The Storm has been almost as generous, ranking fourth in points allowed.
While the final score didn't indicate a high octane affair, the Storm made some plays then capitalized on some luck as Tampa Bay gave the crowd of 11,172 at the St. Pete Times Forum a 46-30 win for its first home victory of the season.
"We were able to take care of the football and cut down on our mistakes," coach Dave Ewart said. "It was good to get a win in front of our home fans and the guys played hard. Our fans deserve it."
The Storm, which led 27-16 at halftime, seemed on the verge of another third-quarter collapse when the Command capitalized on a good kickoff return and scored within three plays when quarterback J.J. Raterink hit Aaron Hosack for a 5-yard score to cut the deficit to 27-23.
Tampa Bay (3-6) drove within field goal range on its next series and took advantage even when Kyle Chilton missed both field goals; Jermaine Smith recovered a ball off the net on both attempts.
"Just make a play, that's all I was trying to do," Smith said. "It was nice I was able to make two of them."
Brian Zbydniewski (26-of-44 for 277 yards, six touchdowns) then completed a 9-yard pass in the end zone to former USF receiver Amarri Jackson (14 catches, 187 yards, four touchdowns) for a 33-23 lead.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Storm prevented the Command (2-7) from scoring when Hosack had his first fumble of the season when he mishandled a handoff from Raterink. Tampa Bay recovered and Zbydniewski hit Jackson again six plays later on a 5-yard score.
The Zbydniewski-to-Jackson connection happened one more time late in the game as the Storm rumbled to its first home victory since late last season.
"We just took what the defense was giving us," said Zbydniewski, who followed up his previous start in which he had three interceptions while throwing for 304 yards with no mistakes. "They were playing a lot of zone and we have some great receivers. If I can just get the ball into their hands, we'll be pretty successful as an offense. We have a good connection right now and it's all about keeping it going."
Tampa Bay again got off to a good start, leading 14-3 lead after the first quarter. Zbydniewski found Jackson in the right corner of the end zone on a 20-yard strike on the Storm's first drive.