Quarterback Erik Meyer was sharp, save for one ill-fated pass. Terrance Sanders treated his parents to a two-touchdown performance and the defensive line made life miserable for Tampa Bay quarterback Randy Hippeard.
Spokane needed contributions from its offense, defense and special teams to rally past the Storm 55-52 in front of an announced crowd of 9,479 Monday at the Arena.
The Shock (10-7) trailed at half for the second straight game. And much like the Arizona contest nine days ago, Sanders helped launch a comeback with a kick return for a touchdown, this time a 57-yarder that trimmed the Storm’s lead to 38-34 in the third quarter.
Sanders’ parents are visiting from Florida and have watched his last two games.
“Anytime I play in front of my family it’s huge,” Sanders said. “They came out in 2012, too. It’s good to do special things in front of them.”
Tampa Bay (8-9) frustrated Spokane with its quick passing game but that changed in the fourth quarter.
Meyer hit Nick Truesdell in stride for a 40-yard touchdown pass to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 45-41. On the ensuing play from scrimmage, defensive lineman Terrance Taylor broke through and disrupted Hippeard’s throwing motion. The ball floated to Sanders, who returned it 19 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, punctuating the Shock’s first defensive stop of the game.
Hippeard was shaken up on the play. That scenario repeated itself throughout the fourth quarter as Spokane’s front hounded the Storm quarterback. He needed extra time to get to his feet on three occasions.
“Once you start getting to the quarterback everything changes,” Shock coach Andy Olson said. “TT (Terrance Taylor) hit him really hard on that interception and he was hurting. He wasn’t the quarterback he was in the first half.”
The defense registered another stop when Hippeard, drifting backward in the pocket, overthrew his intended receiver on fourth down. Spokane only had one sack but the pressure took its toll on Hippeard.
“I always call (the defensive line) out at half and say, ‘Win this game for us.’ And they pretty much do it every single time,” Olson said. “We always end up getting through there at some point.”
Olson also called out Sanders at half.
“He struggled in the first half,” Olson said. “That’s the second time I’ve done that and the second time he’s responded.”
Spokane bumped its lead to 55-45 when Meyer broke free from the pocket and found no obstacles on a 9-yard touchdown run.
Hippeard hit Joe Hills for a touchdown pass, pulling Tampa Bay within 55-52. Rashaad Carter tipped the ensuing onside kick out of bounds and the Shock ran out the clock for their fourth straight victory.
Adron Tennell, sidelined for eight games with a foot injury, played most of the game and was on the receiving end of Spokane’s first touchdown.
“I’d say I’m about 85, 90 percent,” said Tennell, who finished with five receptions for 38 yards. “At first practicing I didn’t really think I could just run out there but playing a full game, on special teams, it just boosts my confidence.”
Tampa Bay led 28-20 when Meyer made one of his only mistakes. His pass hung in the air too long and was picked off by Randall Burden in the final minute of the half. Burden returned the ball to Spokane’s 18 but the Shock defense limited the damage to Juan Bongarra’s 28-yard field goal with 3.3 seconds left.
Meyer finished 21 of 26 for 210 yards and five touchdowns. Mike Washington had six catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns, including a 23-yarder that he snagged before tumbling over the dasherboards.
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