FLOWERY BRANCH - When David Crocker took a dropped pass off the back wall of the end zone and returned it for what would have been a game-tying touchdown Saturday, momentum seemed to shift for the Georgia Force.
But when officials called the play back, ruling a fan touched the ball that all ended.
On the next series the hard-hitting defensive back took a shot to the lower back making one of his team-high 11 tackles and was carried off the field with a lower-back bruise. Now the third-year Arena League player will miss at least the next four weeks after the team placed him on injured reserve earlier this week.
The injury is another hit to a defense already without veteran DB Hamin Milligan as it travels to face one of the leagues best rushing teams in division-rival Tampa Bay.
"(Crocker) is an example of what we want as a defensive player," head coach Doug Plank said. "Especially when you are playing tough, physical teams like we are this weekend against Tampa, you want to have as many of your tough guys going into that type of game."
Tampa Bay (1-0) is the only team in the Southern Division to win in Week 1, beating Kansas City 51-49. The Storm scored five of their seven touchdowns on the ground, led by Terrence Marshall with four rushing scores on just seven carries for 10 yards.
"Their offensive line believes they can get it done," Plank said. "You can see the surge that they get on the line of scrimmage. The biggest challenge for our defense this week is to stop that running game inside the 10-yard line."
A challenge made tougher with the loss of Crocker.
"That is going to be a little bit of a letdown for us not having him," Plank said. "But every player out here knows that during the course of the season they are going to be asked to step up and be accountable and be a performer."
A power run offense will give the Force (0-1) a look it rarely saw from the efficient passing attack of Dallas and quarterback Clint Dolezel. Tampa quarterback Brett Dietz threw for just 193 yards and two touchdowns on 18 of 25 passing in Week 1, compared to the 283 yards and seven TDs Dolezel threw against the Force.
The Georgia offense, which was shaky against Dallas failing to convert any of its six third downs, is again forced to adjust to changes in the receiving corps with this week's release of starter Brent Holmes. Willis Marshall replaces Holmes who was the Force's leading receiver in Week 1 with eight catches for 156 yards and three touchdowns.
Since 2005 the Force is 10-3 coming off a loss with all three losses coming in 2006.
"Both sides (of the ball) really boils down to the line of scrimmage," Plank said.