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Storm gets defensive, again

Published Sep. 13, 2005

There wasn't much new about the Storm's season-opening victory at San Jose on Friday night. Especially the score, which looked oddly familiar: 45-23.

"Kind of typical, isn't it?" Tampa Bay coach Tim Marcum said.

The only thing that wasn't typical was George LaFrance's failure to catch a pass for the first time in his 10-year career.

Otherwise, it was the kind of effort Marcum expects from his team. The Storm's penchant for solid defense and functional offense shone through. Like it did in last season's finale when it had to win to secure a playoff spot, the Storm handled the SaberCats with defense that allowed just two touchdowns. Tampa Bay had two safeties (three in last year's game) and sacked quarterback Cree Morris three times before separating his shoulder.

Andre Bowden had all three sacks, including one for a safety, helping to force Morris into a 13-for-31 passing night.

"We played some pretty doggone good defense," Marcum said. "Andre had all the sacks. Our defensive backs played really well. (Tracey) Perkins had three drops that should have been interceptions, and we had two other interceptions called back. And Johnnie Harris played a heck of a game.

"The linebackers both played excellent. Our pass rush was definitely there."

Quarterback Peter Tom Willis was sharp, completing 12 of his first 13 passes. He finished 19-of-29 for 247 yards and four touchdowns.

Willis had a new target kind of.

Last year, former NFL all-rookie selection Wayne Walker joined the Storm at midseason and though he was slowed by nagging injuries, showed glimpses of breakaway speed. He showed more than a glimpse against the SaberCats, catching seven passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. His 42-yard pass from Willis tied the score at 7 and a 37-yard score in the third quarter made it 34-20 after San Jose pulled within a touchdown.

"He can certainly light it up," Marcum said. "They had a hard time covering him one-on-one."

Lawrence Samuels and Stevie Thomas each caught five passes and a touchdown apiece, and linebacker/fullback Les Barley ran for 41 yards and two touchdowns.

"It was really pleasing that we opened up on the road, after a long ride out there, as crisp as we did," Marcum said. "I'm really pleased with just about everything."

In Saturday's home opener, the Storm hosts Nashville, which it beat in last season's quarterfinals.