TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Storm take on the Cleveland Gladiators at the Tampa Bay Times Forum this Saturday at 7:30 PM EST. This will be the thirteenth time the two teams have met, with the Storm holding a 6-3 advantage at home.
The Storm looks to rebound after a disappointing loss to South Division rival Jacksonville Sharks in its home opener. A win versus the Gladiators would give the Storm its first win of the 2013 season, and head coach Dave Ewart career win number 40.
In his first game in a Storm uniform, versus the Sharks, first-year Storm quarterback Adrian McPherson did not disappoint. He caused the most damage with his feet, leading all players with 58 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. He would go on to set the franchise single-game rushing touchdown record with five. McPherson also completed 20-of-33 passing attempts for 218 yards, connecting with second-year Storm receiver Joe Hills for a pair of touchdowns.
However, McPherson’s primary receiver was Greg Ellingson. Ellingson caught 15 passes for 159 yards, which put him in a tie for the second-most receptions by a Storm receiver in a single-game. The crowd also felt the presence of Michael Lindsey as he had six kick returns for 131 yards, including a 55-yard return for a touchdown. This was Lindsey’s fourth consecutive game with over 100 kick return yards.
The Gladiators come to Tampa searching for its first win after 26-point loss to the Spokane Shock in its season opener. Led by head coach Steve Thonn, the Gladiators will rely on starter, and former Storm quarterback, Bryan Zbydniewski. After spending the 2012 season with the New Orleans VooDoo, as Kurt Rocco’s backup, Zbydniewski will look to gain control of the game early. This past weekend he threw for 297 yards and four touchdowns on 25-of-38 passing. He also logged a touchdown on the ground.
Dominick Goodman, Zbydniewski’s favorite target, caught nine passes for 72 yards and a touchdown. Goodman also has a history of doing well against the Storm. Last season the Storm met the Gladiators twice, and Goodman combined for 24 receptions for 257 yards and two touchdowns. Thyron Lewis could also prove to be an effective target and while he only caught two passes in the season opener, they were both good for scores.
On the defensive side of the ball, look for the Storm defensive line to put more pressure on the quarterback. More pressure would help create opportunities for the revamped backfield to force turnovers.
The Gladiators will rely on its backfield and newly acquired defensive back Jamar Love. Love spent the 2012 season with the Milwaukee Mustangs and was the team’s second leading defender with nine pass breakups. In his first game in a Gladiator uniform, Love tallied three pass breakups and five tackles. Last season versus the Storm, Love had a big game recording 5.5 tackles and two pass breakups.
Both teams will want to get out to an early lead to establish their tempo as they chase down their first win of the 2013 season.