SAN JOSE, Calif. - The San Jose SaberCats (5-2) won their third consecutive game, defeating the Tampa Bay Storm (5-3) 64-34 in front of 8,001 fans at HP Pavilion on Friday night. Quarterback Russ Michna dazzled once again at home, completing 16-of-23 passes for 182 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. The story of the night was the SaberCats’ defensive line putting pressure on Storm quarterback Adrian McPherson. The ‘Cats defense held the dual-threat McPherson to five rushing yards, his lowest total all season, and was sacked six times. Wide receiver/linebacker and J. Lewis Small Playmaker of The Game Huey Whittaker continued his trend of scoring on both sides of the ball by having one fumble recovery score in addition to one receiving touchdown.
"I'm proud of them (the team). They've been working hard, they've improved a lot, but like I told them in the locker room, it's not about one game,” said Owner/Head Coach Darren Arbet. “We have to improve every week as a football team to get where we want to be."
The SaberCats started off their offensive showcase with a three-yard scoring run by Jamarko Simmons, his fifth on the year. The Storm struggled early and were unable to move the chains in their first possession, which ended in a 60-yard missed field goal by Juan Bongarra. The ‘Cats immediately capitalized on the failed drive with seven more on an eight-yard connection from the Russell Athletic Offensive Player of The Game, Michna, who found Jason Willis to make it 14-0 SaberCats. The Storm put their first points on the board on the following drive by way of a four-yard pass from McPherson to Greg Ellingson. San Jose was able to contain McPherson’s scrambling ability, holding him to no rushing yards in the first quarter, which no other defense all season had been able to do.
San Jose began the second quarter just like they did the first, by finding the end zone in only three minutes; this time through the air on the 27-yard Michna pass to Fred Williams to make the score 21-7. On the next Tampa Bay possession, the tandem of Francis Maka and Jason Stewart made their presence felt by getting a key sack and forcing the fumble that resulted in a Whittaker recovery in the end zone for the score. On the ensuing drive, the Storm came back and got in the end zone themselves, on a four-yard McPherson run, his first attempt on the night to cut the San Jose lead to 14. The SaberCats answered with another score by Whittaker, this time on offense from two yards out to make it 35-14. The Storm were anticipating a deep kickoff and were caught off guard by the onside kick attempt by Nich Pertuit, who also recovered the ball and set the SaberCats up in the hopes of extending their lead. However, a deflected pass by Whittaker found the hands of Storm defensive back Craig Smith and McPherson made sure to capitalize on the turnover by connecting with Ellingson from 37-yards out for the touchdown, their second of the night. That would be all the scoring in the first 30 minutes and the SaberCat’s left the field up 35-21.
SaberCats defensive back and Riddell Defensive Player of The Game Ken Fontenette opened up the second half tracking down his first interception in the green and gold, which then set up the ten-yard Michna to Willis score that put the ‘Cats back on top by 21. The Storm’s offensive struggles continued as they could not move the chains and turned the ball over on downs. San Jose once again capitalized on the great field position with Williams diving into the end zone for six more. The resilient Tampa Bay squad would not go down just yet, with McPherson leading the Storm down the field for the score on a one-yard run by the quarterback, which broke the all-time Arena Football League record for the most rushing touchdowns in a season by a signal-caller with 23 (Ryan Vena previously held the record) and made the score 48-28. The SaberCats added another rushing score of their own on Simmons’ second of the night that extended the lead to 55-28. Back-to-back sacks by Maka, Stewart and Justin Warren ended the Storm’s hopes of scoring again in the third as they entered the final 15 minutes down by 27.
Fontenette began the fourth quarter like he did the third, with an interception; this time, he brought it back to the house to make the score 62-28. Tampa Bay went with a change at the quarterback position by bringing in Randy Hippeard (his first appearance on the year) who tossed a 25-yard dart to Ellingson for his first career touchdown pass. Following a turnover, Tampa Bay was unable to get anything going on their final drive, which ended on a botched snap out of the end zone resulting in a safety for San Jose. That would be all at HP Pavilion as the SaberCats handled the Storm 64-34, and held their opponents below the 40-point mark for the third straight game.
With their third consecutive victory, the SaberCats improve to 5-2 on the year. Next week they make their way across the country to Jacksonville to face the Sharks in what proves to be a tough mid-season matchup with playoff implications. The game can be seen live on Comcast Sports Net Plus and heard on the radio at KNBR 1050 next Saturday May 18th at 4:00 p.m. PT.
SaberCats Media Relations provided this story.