San Jose -The Tampa Bay Storm (8-8, 4-3) fell to the San Jose SaberCats (12-4, 5-1) Friday night at the SAP Center, 52-43. The second-consecutive loss for Tampa Bay brings the Storm to a .500 record with two games left to play in 2014 regular season.
The loss was critical for Tampa Bay, as they had the opportunity to take a minimal lead in the South Division with a win due to an Orlando Predators bye week.
Storm quarterback Randy Hippeard and the rest of the offense was limited by a strong San Jose defense, specifically in the second half. Hippeard was 18-of-31, threw for 234 yards, six touchdowns, and a costly interception that sealed the game for the SaberCats.
The Storm received the ball to start the game, scoring on its first possession on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Hippeard to wide receiver Joe Hills. The touchdown reception gave Hills a touchdown reception in 33 consecutive games. Both teams would score twice in the first quarter, tying the game at 14-14.
Hippeard found Hills for a four-yard touchdown pass on Tampa Bay’s opening drive of the second quarter, giving the Storm a 21-14 lead. At the one-minute warning, San Jose responded with a score of their own, a touchdown pass from quarterback Nathan Stanley, to wide receiver Dominique Curry. After a failed on-side kick attempt by the SaberCats, the Storm capitalized by scoring on an Amarri Jackson touchdown reception with 39 seconds left to play in the half. San Jose would score on a rushing touchdown by Curry to close out the first half, leaving the score tied, 28-28.
San Jose opened up the second half with a score, a nine-yard touchdown pass from Stanley to Curry, giving the SaberCats its first lead of the game. The SaberCats recovered an on-side kick on the following kick-off and capitalized, scoring on a 10-yard pass from Stanley to Curry. The score gave the SaberCats a 42-28 lead. The Storm would score on its first possession of the quarter on a touchdown pass from Hippeard to wide receiver T.T. Toliver. The third quarter would end on San Jose’s offensive possession, with the SaberCats leading 42-35.
The SaberCats kicked a field goal on its opening drive of the fourth quarter, extending their lead, 45-35. On the Storm’s following possession, Hippeard threw an interception to San Jose defensive back Simeon Castille. The SaberCats took advantage of the turnover by scoring on a rushing touchdown by Curry, his fifth score of the game. Hills would haul in a Hippeard touchdown pass with under 30 seconds left but it was not enough time as the game concluded with the SaberCats winning, 52-43.
Hills and Jackson both punched in strong games against the San Jose secondary. Hills hauled in seven passes for 81 yards and three touchdowns, and Jackson caught six passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns.
The Storm were led defensively by defensive backs Jean Fanor and James Harrell. Fanor totaled seven tackles, while Harrell had eight tackles.
UP NEXT- Tampa Bay remains on the road in Week 19 at Spokane, for a Monday night game against the Shock. The matchup is set for July 21, at 8:30 p.m. and will serve as the Storm’s last road game of the regular season.