TAMPA – As if last week’s 33-point loss to the previously winless Portland Steel wasn’t bad enough, the Tampa Bay Storm (1-9, 0-5) saw things get even worse on Saturday. After leading 7-6 early, Tampa Bay was blown out the rest of the way, losing 67-34 to the Jacksonville Sharks (5-5, 4-2) in front of 8,418 at Amalie Arena.
“We did not show up at all.” Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels said. “In all phases of the game, I think a lack of focus for some of the guys.”
A 16-yard touchdown pass from Jason Boltus to T.T. Toliver gave the Storm a 7-6 lead with 8:37 left in the first quarter, but it was the last lead of the day for Tampa Bay. After Jacksonville went up 13-7, Boltus saw a pass go off of Julius Gregory’s hands and into the hands of Sharks defensive lineman Jordan Miller, who then returned it for a 28-yard touchdown.
Tampa Bay was then stopped again, leading to another Sharks touchdown. But, trailing by 20, Toliver made history with a 13-yard touchdown catch. The catch made him the league’s all-time leader in receiving yards. He ended the night with eight catches for 124 yards and three touchdowns, bringing his career receiving yardage total to 15,232.
“[Toliver] is a special guy,” Samuels said. “That’s one of them that gives his effort day in and day out. He deserves it; he deserves everything that’s coming to him.”
From there, the Storm couldn’t do much to get back in the game. Jacksonville quarterback Tommy Grady connected with Reggie Gray for a touchdown before an onside kick and another touchdown by ex Storm wide receiver Joe Hills put the Sharks up 47-14 at halftime. Hills finished the night with seven catches for 68 yards and four touchdowns. Grady had a huge night himself, completing 16 of 23 attempts for 188 yards and six touchdowns.
In the second half, the two teams played fairly evenly. Both scored twenty points, but the hole Tampa Bay dug itself into in the first half was too large to climb out of. Boltus continued to struggle, completing just 22 of 41 passes for 284 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
The loss drops Tampa Bay to 1-9 on the year and 0-5 within its conference. With six games left on the schedule, the Storm is running out of time to right the ship before the playoffs.
“We’re going to really look at the tape and look at some of [the players’] effort,” Samuels said. “We’re going to evaluate each and every one of them.”
Tampa Bay hosts the Los Angeles KISS (4-6, 3-2) next Saturday at 7:30 p.m.