Tom Brady and Matt Ryan emerged from their respective tunnels Sunday with no hope of achieving the weekend’s top conversion rate at Raymond James Stadium.
That distinction belonged to Wayne Ward, the venue’s 52-year-old turf and grounds manager. Under severe meteorological duress, Ward and his staff still converted the field — replacing USF’s painted logos with Tampa Bay’s — with a few hours to spare.
I finished up at 11:30 this morning,” Ward said early Sunday afternoon.
Roughly seven hours earlier, Ward and his bleary-eyed crew watched hopelessly as a pre-dawn shower washed away all the craftsmanship they had begun immediately after the Bulls’ 38-17 triumph against Florida A&M concluded. To that point, they had cleaned the field, smoothed it over, laid down the stencils for all logos (end zone and midfield) and painted them.
“We were walking off the field, rolling up the strings and I had sent the guys to at least get off their feet for a couple of hours until we were going to set the field. And all the sudden, it started sprinkling, and the sprinkling got a lot harder, and it rained good for about 10 or 15 minutes.”
A quarter-inch of rain had fallen by the time things subsided, Ward said. After waiting roughly an hour, he and his staff went to work — again. This time, the sun helped expedite the drying process.
“And then I still had to fight the cheerleaders on if they could practice at 12:30,” Ward said with a laugh.
While sleep was not on Ward’s schedule Sunday, extensive rest will arrive in due time. He retires after 30 years in April.
“There was a point in time where we would’ve changed the grass overnight, and then painted it,” he said. “Weather and rain right around daybreak on game day is always a pain.”
Tom Brady sits at the helm of an offensive juggernaut. He threw five touchdown passes this afternoon, and the scary thing is that any given Bucs receiver can be the primary threat in a given week — it just depends on the matchups they like.
He threw 11.3 yards downfield on average, with 58% of his attempts aimed beyond the first-down marker, the second-highest figure in the NFL this week. Brady wasn’t perfect, but he was more than good enough.
Leonard Fournette shouldered the biggest workload in terms of snaps (31) and touches (13), but Ronald Jones had a significant minority split, with 23 snaps and seven touches of his own.
Fournette broke three tackles on the ground and gained 32 of his 52 yards after contact.
Work in the passing game is still the big weakness of this backfield. Tampa Bay While Fournette did catch all four targets thrown his way, he fumbled on one of them, which will torpedo his grade in that facet of play.
Player Snaps Carries Targets
Leonard Fournette 31 11 4
Ronald Jones 23 6 2
Giovanni Bernard 6 0 2
Mike Evans saw just six targets in Week 1 despite Tom Brady throwing 46 targeted passes to Buccaneer receivers. This week, he finished with nine targets and could have had more but for limping off late in the game after he tweaked something running a route.
Evans scored two touchdowns and recorded 75 yards from five catches. Rob Gronkowski also found the end zone twice and now has more touchdowns in his first two games (four) than in his final season in New England (three). He is still a devastating weapon in the red zone.