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Storm survives its errors to topple New Jersey 40-26

James Bowden finishes with 283 total yards.

For its national game of the week Thursday night, TNN paired two teams, Tampa Bay and New Jersey, with one win apiece.

In return, the Storm and Red Dogs turned in an effort more befitting public access television.

Neither team played very well, but someone had to win and on this night it was the Storm as it survived the Red Dogs, and its mistakes, with a much-needed 40-26 victory at the Ice Palace.

How bad was it? The crowd of 8,741 was the second-lowest in team history, and most of those fans headed for the exits early in the fourth quarter after the Storm took 15 consecutive snaps and did not score in what could best be described as the exact opposite of what Arena Football League founders probably had in mind.

Who would have thought time of possession would be the stat of the game in Arena football? The Storm, by the way, had the 37:10-22:50 advantage, including 22:41- 7:19 in a messy second half.

"They gave us everything we could handle but we made the plays," Storm coach Tim Marcum said.

Tampa Bay (2-4) spoiled the homecoming of former Storm great George LaFrance. Not only did the future Hall of Famer and league's third all-time leading receiver not catch a pass, Storm receiver James Bowden erased his name from a portion of the team record book by totaling 283 yards. LaFrance totaled 264 in 1996.

Bowden was the lone bright spot for the Storm, catching 10 passes for 129 yards and adding 154 on kick returns.

Playing in his second game, Bowden caught eight of quarterback John Kaleo's 10 first-half completions for 107 yards. The two played together last season in New England and the familiarity was evident as Kaleo didn't complete a pass to anyone else until Lawrence Samuels caught a touchdown pass with 2:23 left in the first half.

Despite Bowden's heroics, the Storm hung on. It ran a dozen straight plays amid a slew of penalties late in the third quarter and early into the fourth thanks to a New Jersey penalty on fourth and 30 that gave the Storm a first down.

The 12-play drive yielded 4 yards in 7:30.

Once it mercifully ended, Michael Lewis returned the missed field goal 52 yards to cut the lead to 30-26 with 12:45 remaining.

The Storm, showing its only life of the second half, answered with Wayne Walker's 18-yard reception. After holding New Jersey, the Storm got the ball back with 4:48 left and ran the clock down to 37 seconds to set up a field goal.

The first drive was an all-Bowden affair and set the tone for James Bowden's big night. James caught passes on the first two plays for 43 yards, and Andre finished the drive with a 3-yard run.

For the next 22 minutes, though, the Storm offense struggled with two interceptions and a missed field goal.

Luckily for the Storm, the defense, which allowed 223 yards, kept it in the game as the Red Dogs' short passing game was unsuccessful. But they had success deep. Lewis beat Tommy Henry for a 32-yard score and a 13-7 lead, and after a Storm score, did the same to Kevin Williams for 28 yards down to the Storm 3.

But New Jersey quarterback Tommy Maddox tried to score on a sweep and lost the ball, and Pig Goff recovered as the Storm escaped damage.

Kaleo then engineered a seven-play drive, completing four passes to James Bowden and another to fullback Nyle Wiren for a 2-yard touchdown with seven seconds left in the half to make it 21-13.

Kaleo completed 20 of 44 passes for 229 yards and four touchdowns. Maddox was 18-for-36 for 210 yards and two touchdowns.