TAMPA — Tampa Bay and Chicago played to a near dead-even draw through 60 minutes of football Saturday night.
An untimed down was the difference.
Chicago quarterback Carson Coffman snuck in from the 1-yard line as time expired and Chicago got the two-point conversion as the Rush defeated the Storm 50-49 in front of 11,514 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"I thought, with all the guys we had out, our guys battled their tails off," Storm coach Dave Ewart said. "I'm proud of them."
With the clock reading all zeros, Coffman hit Reggie Gray in the left flat on the two-point try and he just reached the end zone. The Storm tried to challenge the play but could not without a timeout.
"Looked like to me (Gray) he hit the boards (and was out of bounds) before he reached out with the ball," Ewart said. "You'd think you'd get those calls at home."
In a game where the score was tied six times and neither team held more than a seven-point lead, Tampa Bay (7-7) appeared to seize control late in the fourth off the game's lone turnover.
On fourth and goal from the Storm 4 and the score tied at 42, Tampa Bay's Rodney Beamon tipped a pass that was picked off by fellow defensive lineman Tremaine Johnson. The ball popped out of Johnson's hand during the return, but defensive back Chris Smith scooped it and returned it to the Chicago 15.
Three plays later quarterback Randy Hippeard, starting in place of an injured Adrian McPherson, found receiver Michael Lindsey from 25 yards for a 49-42 Storm lead with 4:28 to play.
McPherson, the former Florida State star who has 59 touchdowns passing and 31 rushing this season, sat out with a hyperextended knee; he was injured in the previous game against New Orleans.
Hippeard looked sharp in the first half, going 17-of-24 for 196 yards and leading Tampa Bay to scores on all but one possession. Former St. Petersburg Catholic and FSU receiver Chris Davis caught two touchdowns (13 and 17 yards) and Joe Hills hauled in one. Juan Bongarra had a 36-yard field goal blocked as time expired to end the first half, leaving the score tied at 28.
Hippeard finished 25-of-38 for 315 yards, six TDs and no interceptions. Hills caught eight passes for a game-high 140 yards and extended his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown to 16, finishing with two on the night.
"(Hippeard) played good enough to win," Ewart said. "He's a kid that's been battling, and he stepped in and took care of the football."
Besides missing McPherson, the Storm also played without defensive back Vance Cuff, who rolled an ankle in practice, and lost starting center Brad Serini (lower body) on the game's first play. And for the second time in three weeks, it had a player ejected (defensive lineman Tank Tyler, for throwing a punch near the end of the third quarter).
The Storm is off this week and returns home July 6 against Spokane.