Rick Hamilton rushed for an Arena Bowl record 82 yards and three touchdowns, and Chris Barber had three of Orlando's six interceptions as the Predators beat the Tampa Bay Storm 62-31 Sunday to win their first Arena Bowl.
Orlando had played in three of the previous 11 Arena Bowls, losing each of them. Tampa Bay lost its first Arena Bowl in five tries. The Storm had been undefeated in 10 previous home playoff appearances.Orlando, coached by former Storm quarterback Jay Gruden, the younger brother of Oakland Raider coach Jon Gruden, led by seven at halftime before taking advantage of Tampa Bay turnovers to blow the game open with 23 straight points.
"When we were 5-4, everyone was questioning each other. But we found a way to pull it together." Gruden said. "Everyone was talking new coach, new logo, same results. Now they have to say new coach, new logo, new rings."
Barry Wagner intercepted an errant pass from Peter Tom Willis to open the half, setting Hamilton's five-yard score. On the ensuing kickoff, Storm returner George LaFrance fumbled the ball back into the end zone and got tackled by Webbie Burnett for a safety. Orlando took the free kick and drove 34 yards, ending with Hamilton's 10-yard run with 10:02 remaining.
Wagner capped the rally with a 48-yard missed field goal return that gave Orlando a 47-17 lead with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter.
"Look at me, I got my ring! I got my ring!" Wagner yelled afterwards to Predator fans in the north end zone.
The Predators intercepted Willis six times, including a 22-yard interception return by Damon Mason for a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Hamilton won the game's MVP, while Wagner earned Iron Man game honors for his 156 return yards.