TAMPA — Neither team led by more than one score for most of the night. Both were scoring at will through 31/2 quarters. And Saturday's Tampa Bay-Spokane matchup had all the makings of an Arena Football League game that would come down to one mistake.
As it turned out, one lost possession proved the difference.
Tampa Bay turned the ball over on downs with just over six minutes to play and never recovered as the Storm lost 53-41 to Spokane (4-2) in front of 9,448 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night.
The loss was the Storm's third in a row, dropping it to 3-4, and its 41-point output tied for its lowest of the season. The crowd was also the smallest of the year at home.
"The second half, I think we had some people (on the team) not believing," Storm coach Lawrence Samuels said. "We're going to re-evaluate our team and make some adjustments and move forward."
Trailing 47-41 in the fourth quarter, a pair of penalties and three incomplete passes forced the Storm into fourth and 20. Quarterback Randy Hippeard scrambled to his left, but Amarri Jackson dropped the pass that was well short of the first-down marker with 6:20 to play. Brandon Thompkins hauled in his third touchdown catch of the game three plays later for a 53-41 Spokane lead.
"We were going back and forth with them," Hippeard said. "Sometimes you almost have to score every time you touch the ball because it's tough on defense."
The teams traded scores in the first half, with Hippeard tossing touchdown passes to three receivers and running for another. The Storm got the ball to start the game and could have taken a two-score lead before the half, but Hippeard was picked off in the end zone by Bryant Nnabuife on the half's final play. Tampa Bay took a 27-26 lead into the break.
"I just left that one a little short," Hippeard said.
Kick returner Michael Lindsey entered the team record books, surpassing the 5,116 return yards by AFL Hall of Famer George LaFrance (1994-99). Lindsey, who leads the league in kickoff return yardage, finished the night with 55 yards and 5,128 for his Storm career, and is on pace to break his season team record of 1,745.
"Mike comes to work every day, works hard, and I'm proud of him," Samuels said. "That was one bright spot for us (Saturday)."
For the second straight week, T.T. Toliver led the team with 10 receptions for 112 yards and one TD. Jackson (nine catches for 99 yards), Joe Hills (five catches for 45 yards) and Lindsey (one catch for 46 yards) hauled in a touchdown apiece. Hippeard finished the night 25-for-43 for 302 yards and four TDs.