TAMPA — If last week was bad, this one was historically bad.
A week after getting doubled up 72-36 at Utah, the Storm didn't fare any better, losing 66-26 in the home opener to Cleveland before an announced 7,939 at the St. Pete Times Forum on Sunday night.
The 40-point defeat was the worst in team history.
"Pretty embarrassing," coach Dave Ewart said.
"I'm just embarrassed about the whole thing."
The first offensive play for the Storm (1-2) proved to be a sign of things to come. Gladiators defensive lineman Tim Cheatwood got pressure on quarterback Mike Potts, who was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety.
Potts' woes got only worse
The rookie from William and Mary finished 16-of-30 for 139 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, one of which Mike Bragg returned 32 yards for a second-quarter touchdown. Potts was lifted for Grant Gregory, a former USF player who started last week against Utah, 48 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Tampa Bay's offense struggled through most of the first half, after which it trailed 39-13. Tampa Bay's first four possessions ended with a safety, two interceptions and a turnover on downs.
"I thought it was a terrible performance," Ewart said of Potts. "I thought Grant came in and at least showed some fire. It was just terrible at best."
It has been a far cry from last season's version of the Storm offense, which set team records nearly across the board.
"Believe me, we would love to have Brett Dietz back. But it ain't going to happen," Ewart said of last season's starting quarterback who did not return to the Arena League. "We have to make some changes, but it's not like I have $50,000 to go buy a player. I have $400. Do you know anybody?"
Michael Lindsey, the Arena League's leading kick returner coming into the game, finally got the Storm on the scoreboard with 8:09 left in the second quarter. He fielded a kickoff the net, cut back across the field and weaved his way through several defenders for a 56-yard touchdown.
Lindsey also returned a kickoff 58 yards for a touchdown with 20 seconds left in the third quarter, his league-leading third score this season.
"I love the return game," Lindsey said. "I just saw the crease, got some good blocks and ran as fast as I could."
As bad as Tampa Bay was offensively, the defense offered little resistance. Cleveland (2-0) scored on eight of its 11 possessions.
On two of the scoreless possessions, the Gladiators were running out the clock in the first and second half.
"We had one, maybe two guys up front getting pressure," Ewart said. "Everybody else was just sucking air."