TAMPA, FL – The Tampa Bay Storm (0-4, 0-2) came back from down two possessions in the second half on Sunday afternoon, only to fall short in a 33-27 loss to the Jacksonville Sharks (2-3, 2-1) in front of 8,438 at Amalie Arena.
“We didn’t execute at the end,” Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels said. “We’ve got to correct some things, especially on the offensive side. We left a lot of points out there.”
Tampa Bay, which failed to put up 30 points for the fourth straight game, had an opportunity to take the lead in the final minute, threatening inside Jacksonville’s 10-yard line. Three straight incomplete passes from rookie quarterback Jonathan Bane turned the ball back over to the Sharks, who ran out the clock to hang on for a win. The Storm offense turned the ball over on downs four times while scoring on one of four times they had possession inside Jacksonville’s 15-yard line.
“We definitely left a lot of plays out there on the field,” Bane said. “[There were] a lot of balls I could’ve completed that I didn’t.”
Bane, making his first career start, finished the afternoon 21-for-38 with 281 yards and three touchdowns. On the final possession, he missed a wide open T.T. Toliver in the end zone before missing on his next two throws.
“I went to put [the ball] in the back corner and I threw it off my back foot. I wasn’t able to put enough on it,” he said.
Toliver ended the day with nine catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns, one of which was a toe-tapper that gave the Storm a 27-26 lead with 9:50 left in the game. The score was part of a big momentum swing for Tampa Bay that started when defensive back Cortez Stubbs stripped the ball at the goal line and returned it into Jacksonville territory.
“That’s what we work on with the DBs, is stripping the ball,” Samuels said. “That was a big-time strip by Stubbs.”
After the Storm took the lead, it had the Sharks on their heels. But, facing a 2nd-and-32 situation, quarterback Tommy Grady found ex-Storm wide receiver Joe Hills for 31 yards. After picking up a first down, Grady found Prechae Rodriguez for the go-ahead touchdown. Grady completed 28 of his 37 passes for 308 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.
Veteran wide receiver Mike Washington returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and caught four passes for 65 yards in his Storm debut.
The Storm will head up north next Monday night for a matchup with the Philadelphia Soul (3-1, 0-1). Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.