TAMPA — April 1 seems like an eternity ago for the Storm.
Jacksonville shut it out in the fourth quarter on its way to a 54-30 win at the St. Pete Times Forum. That was the Storm's third consecutive defeat and came in the middle of a stretch during which it lost six of eight.
But there have been more than a few changes since then.
Saturday, Tampa Bay (6-7) hopes to atone for the loss and win three straight games for the first time this season when it travels to Jacksonville.
"We're a different football team," Storm coach Dave Ewart said. "It'll be nice to take the bus ride up there and have some confidence."
Since the 2-6 start, Tampa Bay has won four of five, including 46-44 on Friday against division rival Orlando. Brian Zbydniewski, the backup quarterback for the first meeting against the Sharks, is entrenched as the starter. And linemen Tim McGill and Jermaine Smith, who weren't on the roster at the time, have helped the Storm record a league-high 33 sacks (one more than the Sharks).
Few teams have hung with Jacksonville. Since dropping its first game of the season, it has won 12 straight behind QB Aaron Garcia, 40, the league's all-time leader with 48,566 passing yards and 1,043 passing touchdowns.
"They have a great quarterback, a good defense and pass rush and a very smart secondary," Ewart said. "They didn't get to 12-1 by being bad."
Sack watch I: Cliff Dukes collected one sack against Orlando, running his season total to 121/2. He is three off the league record with five games to play.
SACK Watch II: The 41/2 sacks by lineman Jarriett Buie against Orlando, for which he was named the league's defensive player of the week, tied the franchise record. The standout at USF and Seffner's Armwood High matched the total of Craig Walls on July 17, 1987, during the league's first season and when the franchise was based in Pittsburgh.