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Storm suffers Stinging defeat

For those fans who did not get a chance to watch Tampa Bay's fourth-quarter performance last week in Albany, the Storm offered up a similar version Saturday night at the ThunderDome.

The fans weren't too happy with the rerun. After Tampa Bay failed to score in the fourth quarter for the second straight week, its last gasp dying in the hands of Vegas defender James Johnson at the 1-yard line with one second left, many of the 13,022 fans showed their displeasure by littering the field with miniature foam footballs and boos.

"I would have done the same thing myself," coach Tim Marcum said.

The last-period failure allowed Las Vegas to escape with a 38-37 victory, the Storm's second straight loss, dropping it out of first place.

Last week, the Storm (4-2) was blanked in the fourth quarter and Albany responded with 14 points to win. This week's loss may have been more devastating. The locker room was hushed afterward, and 30 minutes after the game ended, lineman Sylvester Bembery was sitting in front of his locker dazed and still in full uniform.

"It's very frustrating," said Jay Gruden, who threw for 196 yards but had three interceptions in the second half. "No one is stepping up to the plate and making big plays."

At least no one on the Storm.

Leading 37-25 entering the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay had a couple of chances to put the game away and one final chance to win. It converted none:

Chance No. 1 _ Tampa Bay holds the Sting on downs and takes over at midfield (last week it led by seven and was on the Albany 10). Two plays later, Gruden's pass attempt to Wayne Williams is picked off by Mike Babb with 12:16 remaining. Seven plays later, Babb and quarterback Scooter Molander hook up for a 4-yard touchdown pass _ on fourth down.

Chance No. 2 _ Jorge Cimadevilla, who missed twice in the fourth quarter last week, sails a 42-yarder wide. Las Vegas takes over on the 12, has a key sack nullified by a Storm holding penalty, but eventually scores when JeMone Smith catches a 9-yard pass from Molander with 1:15 left to give the Sting a 38-37 lead.

Chance No. 3 _ When Vegas kicker Ian Howfield boots the kickoff into the speaker, Tampa Bay takes over on the 20. Gruden hits Stevie Thomas twice to get the Storm to the 8-yard line, then fires incomplete with eight seconds left. Instead of running the ball to set up a field goal, Tampa Bay goes for the quick win as Gruden looks for Thomas on a quick slant. The ball pops out of Thomas' hands and into the waiting mitts of Johnson.

Game over.

"I figured we'd go once with the slant and then have him kick it," Marcum said. "I felt that would give us two chances for the win. If he misses it, we kick it. If he catches it, we win."

But the bad bounce stung Tampa Bay, like it had earlier. Gruden's first interception came on the first play in the second half, when Johnson picked off a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage.

"Most of it is my fault. I'm the quarterback," Gruden said. "But someone has to step up."

If no one does, Marcum hinted changes would be forthcoming.

"It's a long season, and it's half over," Marcum said. "We will do some soul searching as a team and as a staff. We'll evaluate the guys we have, and if we feel they can't do it, we'll bring in some that can."

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