Second half struggles doomed Stony Brook Football in a 24-20 loss to Colonial Athletic Association rival Delaware on Oct. 7. Despite a late fourth quarter drive that put the Seawolves within spitting distance of the end zone, Stony Brook lost their first conference game of the season and ended a four-game winning streak.
“Nobody in this league goes undefeated. So that’s not happening,” head coach Chuck Priore said. “Maybe [James Madison University] might because they’re elite, but it’s not happening. It doesn’t happen. Honestly, it’s all about how you recover when you lose.”
Stony Brook’s three conference victories are tied for the most in the CAA with Elon. Reigning Football Championship Subdivision champion, No. 1 James Madison and No. 13 New Hampshire are undefeated in conference play, but have only played CAA opponents twice so far this season.
Stony Brook junior quarterback Joe Carbone was given the ball on the nine-yard line with 3:12 left in the fourth quarter. The Seawolves were down by four and had not scored since the last two minutes of the first half.
In those final three minutes, Carbone completed seven passes for 61 yards and lead the Stony Brook offense to the Delaware 15-yard line. He took two shots at the end zone to no avail, before getting sacked on fourth and 13. Carbone finished with two touchdowns and a career-high 272 yards on 23-36 passing. Both touchdown passes were thrown to senior wide receiver Ray Bolden who also had a career-high 136 receiving yards on eight catches.
“As a football player, when you grow up, that’s what you dream about,” Bolden said. “Thirty seconds on the clock. Third, fourth down.”
The loss was a product of the Seawolves’ collective missteps on Saturday. The Stony Brook offense could not score in the second half. The defense let Delaware rushers run for over 200 yards. Junior kicker Alex Lucansky missed a 30-yard field goal in the first quarter and had an extra point blocked in the second quarter – the four-point difference the game was ultimately decided by.
“Those plays that, at the moment you don’t think they define the outcome of the game… they had more of those go their way,” Bolden said. “I don’t think we played a bad game by any means. They’re a good football team. You shouldn’t put your head down.”
The most damaging misstep was a late third quarter fumble by junior running back Donald Liotine Jr., who finished with 27 yards rushing and 70 yards on kick returns, receiving an inside handoff on the first play of a Stony Brook drive. The diminutive halfback dove up the middle into a mass of blockers and defenders. Pushing for extra yardage, Delaware stripped Liotine. Blue Hens redshirt-junior cornerback Malcolm Brown recovered the fumble and returned it for a 45-yard touchdown.
“They were able to get a turnover for points and that’ll kill you when the game’s over,” Priore said.
After starting with their best record since 2012, the Seawolves lost their first conference game of the season right before they head into a three-game stretch of touch conference play. Stony Brook hosts No. 13 New Hampshire next Saturday for the Seawolves’ homecoming game. Then the team will travel to face No. 14 Richmond, before returning to LaValle Stadium to play No. 24 Albany.
“It’s definitely disappointing, but we shouldn’t react like it’s the end of the world and last year I feel like that’s what we were doing,” Bolden said. “I’m very optimistic about moving on and being put to the test.”
Last season, Stony Brook began with a record of 5-2 before traveling to New Hampshire and losing 43-14. The team ended the season with a four-game losing streak and a final record of 5-6.
“[The difference this year is] leadership. Guys are bought in,” Bolden said. “You have guys who, maybe at once, were considered a cancer to the team and those are the guys pulling us together.”
Stony Brook will look to bounce back and stay at the top of the CAA conversation when it hosts New Hampshire next Saturday at 6 p.m..