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Storm lays groundwork in victory over Memphis

In the Arena League, the ball doesn't often stay on the ground.

For perspective: more than halfway into the season, the league's leading rusher is the Storm's Ivan Caesar, with 143 yards on 29 attempts.

And Caesar hasn't run for some time. He sat out a loss to Las Vegas two games ago due to injury and moved from fullback to offensive line in the Storm's 68-32 victory over Memphis on Saturday.

At least once in a while, though, teams do go to the ground game _ to keep an opposing defense honest, maybe catch it off-guard and, if nothing else, to give receivers a chance to catch their breath.

That's why head coach Tim Marcum had the Storm doing extra work on its running game during practice last week.

"We've got to improve our red-zone offense," Marcum said before the Storm played Memphis. "We've got to know we can punch it from in close."

With fullbacks Cedric McKinnon and Tony Jones injury-free and back in the lineup, the Storm found out it could run against the Pharaohs.

Four of Tampa Bay's first five touchdowns were produced by the running game: McKinnon's 22-yard run, two 8-yard runs by Jones, and quarterback Jay Gruden's recovery in the end zone of a fumble by Jones.

All of which allowed the Storm passing game, which Marcum had expressed concern about throughout the week, to open up: Gruden completed 17 of 26 for 252 yards and five touchdowns, including four scoring passes to George LaFrance.

"One complements the other," said Jones, who won the game's Ironman award for his two-way play (six carries for 30 yards; one catch for 8 yards; three tackles, one sack).

Couch potatoes: Saturday's game ended just in time for Storm players to watch the end of the nationally televised Orlando-Arizona game on a big-screen TV in their locker room.

What they saw was Orlando quarterback Pat O'Hara's pass to Barry Wagner fall incomplete on a two-point conversion attempt with 16 remaining, sealing Arizona's 49-48 victory.

The result of that game, Tampa Bay's victory, Iowa's 52-35 victory over St. Louis and Albany's 69-49 win over Charlotte left four teams with league-best 5-2 records: St. Louis, Arizona, Orlando and Tampa Bay.

Don't blink: Storm fans got their first look Saturday at Grantis Bell, a speedy former West Virginia University receiver who was added to the active roster last week.

"He gives us a good deep threat," Marcum said of Bell, who caught four passes for 56 yards and one touchdown.

Said Gruden: "He's so fast it's hard to play him man-to-man. You can't really do it."

Alarm clock: By beating Memphis, the Storm avoided three losses in a row for the first time in franchise history.

"I think it was a wake-up call, to let us know we're beatable," LaFrance said of the two-game losing streak.

Marcum said he did not do much out of the ordinary to help his club come to life: "Most of these guys have played a lot of football," he said. "You don't have to say a lot. They (knew) what they (had) to do."

The wounded: Lineman Joe March (ankle sprain) had the only significant injury Saturday. Defensive back Tracy Sanders (dislocated shoulder) did not dress but is ready to return after missing four games.