Tampa Bay Storm wide receiver T.T. Toliver set the Arena Football League record for all-time catches on Saturday at Amalie Arena a week after climbing to the top of the league’s all-time reception yardage list.
The Storm, however, dropped their third-straight game, falling 54-27 to the LA KISS.
The KISS (5-6) scored on their first eight possessions and weren’t stopped until their final drive late in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay (1-10) put a touchdown on the board on its opening drive but was denied on its next four possessions through the rest of the first half. The Storm trailed 40-6 at halftime.
“It’s really tough because we started out, we scored first possession, I’m feeling good about our team and our chances and then we couldn’t score anymore,” Storm head coach Lawrence Samuels said. “It snowballed on us, and then things went bad. It’s like a scratched record, the same thing over and over again. We’ve got to find a way to get these guys back on track.”
After LA scored on its opening drive, Tampa Bay quarterback Jason Boltus converted the Storm’s first possession into points when he scrambled out of the pocket and weaved his way through the KISS defense 16 yards to pay dirt. The Storm still trailed 7-6, however, after Delbert Alvarado missed the extra point.
From there, it was all KISS.
Rory Nixon rumbled over the goal line on a two-yard carry to put the KISS back in the lead. Tampa Bay turned the ball over on downs on back-to-back possessions, and LA responded with a touchdown each time.
Boltus was intercepted on consecutive passes on the next two Storm drives.
“It was just simple mistakes,” Samuels said. “Every week it’s mistakes with us. When we make mistakes, they’re glaring and they happen at a rapid pace. We’ve got to find a way to narrow those mistakes down moving forward.”
Tampa Bay scored on its opening drive of the second half, Boltus finding Phillip Barnett in the end zone for an eight-yard score to cut LA’s lead to 40-13. The Storm defense, though, couldn’t come up with a stop to allow Tampa Bay to get back in the game. LA marched down the field twice more in the second half, taking a 54-13 lead.
Toliver broke the AFL’s all-time catches record at 8:34 of the fourth quarter, surpassing Damian Harrell (1,164 career receptions) for the second week in a row for a major achievement. Boltus connected with Toliver on a 22-yard flag route to cement the 39 year old’s place as the league’s receptions king. On Tampa Bay’s next play, Boltus found a wide open Mike Washington in the end zone on a 14-yard strike for the Storm’s third touchdown, cutting LA’s lead to 54-20.
Toliver had six catches total against LA and now has 1,166 catches over his 12-year AFL career.
Last week against Jacksonville, Toliver overtook Harrell to become the AFL’s all-time leader for receiving yards.
“I love to see this man practice,” Storm defensive back Michael Lindsey said of Toliver. “His enthusiasm, he’s out there going hard every day. He doesn’t take a play off. He’s motivating guys to get better. All the guys have to do is just follow that man and see what happens. He’s making history.”
Toliver can knock off one more record in the coming weeks. He needs just 71 all-purpose yards to become the league leader in that category too and pass AFL Hall of Famer Barry Wagner (21,042).
“He’s our inspirational leader,” Samuels said. “What more can you say, I had that record once. He’s special. He’s special to me personally, and he’s special to this organization.”
Tampa Bay had one more last gasp, Boltus hitting Washington in the front corner of the end zone with two seconds remaining in the game for the 54-27 final. Boltus finished 16-of-29 for 173 yards and three touchdowns passing and one more score rushing.
Toliver had a team-high 91 receiving yards.
“We still continued to fight in the second half,” Samuels said. “If we play like that in the first half, we’d be smiling and high-fiving each other. We’re going to continue preaching the full 60 minutes, but it was promising to see the guys continue to fight throughout the fourth quarter.”