Commentary | Adrian McPherson looked like a winner despite Storm's defeat

adell@bradenton.comMarch 24, 2013 

TAMPA

It could have been the homecoming party every one of his family and friends had envisioned.

Adrian McPherson did everything possible to make it that way. Unfortunately, a myriad of errors by others spoiled what could have been a night to celebrate.

Still those folklore images he carved as a kid cropped up again.

The Tampa Bay Storm dropped the season opener 64-55 on Saturday night to Jacksonville at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

But if you are good at reading tea leaves and saw that magic that McPherson still possesses you have to believe there will be better nights.

The former Southeast High great came home after a 12-year absence and turned the clock back in making his debut as the Tampa Bay Storm quarterback.

In a league where running is as difficult as trying to outmaneuver defenders in a phone booth, McPherson showed his legs are like a glass of vintage wine that just get better with age.

Maybe they should name him Vino instead of Kobe Bryant.

McPherson set a Storm record with five rushing touchdowns and showed he is just as nimble, but a lot stronger than that spindly kid who excited Southeast fans back at the turn of the century when he became the only person in state history to be named Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball.

McPherson ran for 58 yards, which tied for the fourth most in the history of the Tampa Bay Storm, which has won five Arena Football League titles.

The 29-year-old had the

play of the night when he broke numerous tackles and left the remaining defenders in the dust on his way to a 35-yard touchdown.

If there were any Tampa Bay Bucs coaches in the stands, they must have been wishing Josh Freeman saw that play.

It had to show Storm management, including former Tampa Bay Bucs great Derrick Brooks, that it was right in persuading McPherson to leave the Canadian Football League and play for Tampa Bay this season.

It's not easy for a quarterback to run on a field 50 yards long and as wide as your average double garage. He showed poise, and if the Storm can straighten out some serious problems in their secondary and some special teams gaffes, this might be a good season.

But this night belonged to McPherson, and though he has to go home with the bittersweet taste of defeat, he has to feel good about what the future holds.

He completed 20 of 33 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns. Both of his TD passes (of 15 and 16 yards) went to boyhood buddy Joe Hills, who earned his athletic recognition in football and basketball at Palmetto High.

The coaching staff for the Storm is going to have to take some blame for this defeat. Tampa Bay missed an extra point on a blocked kick that followed a bad snap. It enabled Jacksonville to go ahead 56-55.

There was enough time for McPherson to engineer a comeback, but Jacksonville was successful on an onside-kick attempt, scored on that possession and then added a two-point conversion.

For a guy who hasn't played Arena League football in five years, McPherson showed an uncanny ability to adjust that few had a right to expect.

For most of the night, he threw pinpoint passes off a quick release and some soft touch passes. There were a couple of drops and a few times he overthrew a receiver in what might have been some big gains.

McPherson did a good job of controlling the clock with a ball-control offense that is uncommon in this league, giving the Storm more than a six-minute advantage in time of possession.

Hills showed he and McPherson could be a nice tandem by catching four passes for 53 yards, but McPherson's favorite target was Greg Ellingson, who had 12 receptions for 111 yards.

Unfortunately, the Storm's defense left receivers wide open all night, and defensive back Chris Smith from Palmetto had a rough night. But he wasn't alone.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports and listen to him talk about his column and other sports on "Out of Bounds" every Tuesday and Thursday between 8 and 10 p.m. on WTMY 1280-AM.

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