The final score _ Tampa Bay 45, San Jose 23 _ gives every indication that the Storm is ready to face the best in the Arena League. But coach Tim Marcum sees room for improvement after Friday night's opener.
Twenty-three points in Arena football is low by any standard, but Marcum wasn't thrilled, for example, by the pressure the defensive ends put on SaberCats QB Cree Morris. But LB Andre Bowden more than made up for any lack of effort, stuffing Morris three times behind the line of scrimmage.
Marcum doesn't have much time to fix Tampa Bay's weaknesses. The Storm faces Nashville, which is expected to compete with Tampa Bay and Orlando for the Southern Division title, in its home opener Saturday at the Ice Palace.
The Storm handled the upstart Kats both times the teams played last season, Nashville's first in the league. But the Kats apparently have outgrown their kitten stage. On Friday night Andy Kelly completed 20 of 29 passes for 204 yards and four touchdowns in a 64-40 victory over Houston.
ME-OW: The Storm is unbeaten (9-0) against teams with some derivative of "cats" in their nickname. It is 4-0 against the Florida Bobcats, 2-0 against Nashville and 3-0 against San Jose.
WHOOPS: Though the San Jose game ended up a blowout, it didn't start out well for the Storm. Its first possession produced a turnover after a mishap during the handoff between C Willie Wyatt and QB Peter Tom Willis. Wyatt admitted the snap was short and he didn't get it to Willis fast enough, Marcum said.
"It made me nervous; it also made me very angry," he said.
JET LAG? WHAT JET LAG?: Tampa Bay ran roughshod over the SaberCats despite the opener being the longest trip the team will take this season. The Storm left at 6 a.m. Thursday for the West Coast trip, which took about eight hours, including a change of planes in Atlanta. Then there was the time change: the game started at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Marcum, however, said there are reasons he likes road trips, no matter the distance.
With "kids, tickets, girlfriends and wives," he said, sometimes being at home has more distractions, so it can be easier to focus on the road.
INJURY REPORT: The team came away from the game fairly unscathed, though OL/DL Sylvester Bembery has a sore left hand. Willis got a "shoulder stinger" Marcum said, but planned to spend Monday, the off day, on the golf course. Still on injured reserve are FB/LB Nyle Wiren (knee), DB/WR Alvoid Mays (knee), WR/DB Damacio Green (ankle) and WR/DB Kevin Jackson (ankle).
MEET THE STORM: Fans are invited to meet their favorite players and coaches Friday the Holiday Inn Select in Tampa. Registration begins at 4:30 p.m.; the team is scheduled to be there between 5 and 6:30. Food and beveragesare complimentary; a cash bar will be available. For more information, call (813) 307-5900.