TAMPA — Special teams are often overlooked in football, but Saturday they proved to be the difference.
A late blocked extra point and recovered onside kick doomed the Storm against division rival Jacksonville in its season opener as the Sharks went on to win 64-55 in front of an announced crowd of 12,222 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"That was a classic Arena Football game," Storm coach Dave Ewart said. "Played a veteran team and got it down to one minute. We just didn't execute."
The Storm's Michael Lindsey returned a kickoff 55 yards for a touchdown with 2:31 to play, but the extra-point try was blocked by the Sharks' Matt Marcorelle, and the Storm led 55-49.
"Our guy just got beat around the edge," Ewart said. "It happens."
On Jacksonville's next possession, Jeff Hughley hauled in a 25-yard TD pass from Bernard Morris and the Sharks took 56-55 lead with 53 seconds to play.
Then the Sharks went for an onside kick and recovered it, which set up a 36-yard Jeron Harvey TD catch from Morris with 44 seconds left that put the game out of reach for Tampa Bay. Morris ran in the 2-point conversion.
Morris was 24-of-31 for 269 yards and seven touchdowns.
"We knew the onside kick was coming," Ewart said. "And they were veteran guys. They weren't rookies."
Storm quarterback Adrian McPherson, who played at Florida State, tied a team record with five rushing touchdowns in his first start with the team. The highlight was a dazzling 35-yard scramble in which McPherson eluded a host of defensive linemen in the backfield to tie the score at 21 in the second quarter.
McPherson's other four scoring runs were for 1 yard. He totaled 10 rushes for 58 yards.
McPherson was 20-of-33 passing for 218 yards and two TDs. He found an immediate connection with former Robinson standout Greg Ellingson, who hauled in 15 catches for 159 yards.
"We've had three weeks to prepare and get ready," Ellingson said. "I trust (McPherson), and I think he trusts me."
The Storm took its first lead in the second quarter after Ronald Beamon's fumble recovery on a kickoff at the Sharks' 1-yard line. McPherson scored on the next play, giving Tampa Bay a 28-21 lead with 3:55 left in the half.
The crowd was the largest to see the Storm since the 2012 home opener. Tampa Bay averaged 9,798 last season.
There was a video tribute and moment of silence for former Storm receiver Chandler Williams, who died at 27 in January. The team also presented a $10,000 check for a Williams family trust fund.