TAMPA — Tampa Bay celebrated throwback night by rolling out the blue and red tiger-striped Zubaz, handing out replica 1991 ArenaBowl V championship rings and offering a free postgame concert by rapper Coolio. But one thing was abundantly clear — this was far from vintage-era Storm.
On a night dedicated to the '90s, a decade when the Storm won four AFL titles, Tampa Bay looked more like the franchise that hasn't posted a winning record since 2010, losing in historic fashion to rival Orlando, 76-25 in the season opener before 9,928 Friday at Amalie Arena.
"Too many mistakes," Storm coach Lawrence Samuels said. "Too many."
The 51-point margin of defeat was the largest in team history, topping a 44-point loss to Philadelphia last season.
The "War on I-4" is quickly dissolving into little more than a glorified scrimmage for Orlando. The Predators have now won four in a row and six of the past seven against the Storm dating back to 2013. Tampa Bay's lone win during that stretch was a 35-34 victory in June 2014.
Tampa Bay had two turnovers on downs in the first half and Orlando scored on all of its possessions, taking a 34-13 lead into the break. Gerald Young had a key wide open fourth-down drop on one drive and the Storm stalled at the Orlando 1 on the other.
"We make that catch and we're still running," Samuels said. "We block the right people going in from the 1, we score and we're off the field. Too many miscues against a good team."
Things went from bad to worse to open the second half. Orlando's Mike Lewis recovered a mishandled snap in the end zone for a touchdown on the Storm's first play from scrimmage and Paul Stephens picked off Adam Kennedy on the second, returning it 13 yards for a score and 48-13 lead.
"There's no excuses," defensive back James Harrell said. "Orlando is a rival game. They were better prepared tonight. They had our number."
Kennedy (12-of-25 for 150 yards, three touchdowns and three turnovers) had a rough night in his Storm debut, getting removed early in the fourth. He played for New Orleans last season.
Orlando starter and former Storm quarterback Randy Hippeard cruised, finishing 18-of-27 for 197 yards, five touchdowns and no turnovers.