TAMPA — Matt Grothe breathed life into a moribund Storm offense Saturday. Not much else went right, however, in a 58-40 loss to Georgia in front of 9,700 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
It was Tampa Bay's fourth straight loss.
Grothe, the former USF standout and the Big East's all-time leader in total offense, made his Arena League debut to start the second half. And on his first play, he hit Michael Lindsey, who turned it into a 40-yard touchdown that cut the Storm's deficit to 31-14.
"I don't think it could have worked out any better," said Grothe, who was signed last week. "I was so nervous going in on that first play. Just to get a touchdown like that calmed me down so much and just gave me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the game."
Tavious Polo intercepted Darnell Kennedy on the Force's ensuing drive. And Grothe found offensive lineman Tom Kaleita open in the back of the end zone on third and goal from the 5 to make it 31-20.
After a Georgia touchdown, the Storm (6-11) again got within 11 when Grothe hit Amarri Jackson, another former Bulls star, for a 29-yard touchdown with 6:29 left in the third.
After another Force touchdown, Jackson added a score to start the fourth quarter, a one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone on fourth down to make it 45-34.
But the defense couldn't stop the Force.
And Grothe's interception was returned 30 yards for a touchdown by Tracy Belton to make it 58-34 with 3:18 left. Grothe finished 12-of-24 for 161 yards and five touchdowns, including one to Jackson with 43 seconds left.
"(Grothe) brings all the intangibles you want with a quarterback," Storm coach Dave Ewart said. "The kid's won at every level he's been at. He's persevered and overcome. He's an overachieving kind of guy, and that kind of rubs off on our guys."
Grothe replaced Danny Southwick, who was 10-of-17 for 97 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also fumbled a snap at the Storm 2. That was recovered by Eric Scott in the end zone to make it 31-7 with nine seconds left in the first half.