With under a minute left in the game, both the Liberty Flames and the Seawolves marched up the field from their own territories and scored to put themselves in position for the Big South championship. However, once time expired, Stony Brook triumphed. Because their 36-33 victory over 16th ranked Liberty tied them with the Flames for tops in the conference, the Seawolves must share the title with their rival.
The Seawolves dominated the first half via their two-headed rushing monster of senior Conte Cuttino (Uniondale, N.Y.) and sophomore Ed Gowins (Bellport, N.Y.). About five minutes into the first quarter on the first play of Stony Brook’s second drive of the game, Gowins quickly exploded through Liberty’s defense with a 52-yard touchdown run. Shortly after the second quarter began, Gowins scored in similar fashion on an 11-yard run. Cuttino scored late in the second on an 8-yard run from a direct snap. As a result, the two backs combined for 174 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
As for the Flames, they only managed two field goals and a touchdown during three consecutive scoring drives totaling 173 yards. However, they only trailed 21-13 at halftime.
Things started to get interesting in the second half with the third quarter less momentous than the fourth. After Liberty was stopped in the third quarter on fourth and one at Stony Brook’s 19-yard line, they rebounded and scored on their subsequent drive. A Seawolves offsides penalty allowed Liberty’s freshman back SirChauncey Holloway (Seffner, Fla.) to run for a 12-yard touchdown with about five minutes left in the quarter. A missed two-point conversion cut the deficit to two, putting the Seawolves up 21-19.
About three-and-a-half minutes into the fourth, Flames QB Mike Brown (Charlottesville, Va.) took a direct snap a la Cuttino’s in the second and bolted through the middle of the Seawolves defense for a 70-yard score. Thus, Liberty gained its first lead of the day and was up 26-21 with 11:28 to play.
The Seawolves wasted no time, however, answering back. Taking over at its own 27, the Seawolves reached Liberty territory thanks to QB Michael Coulter (Yorba Linda, Calif.) and Gowins. Gowins capped off the drive with a 42-yard score, his third touchdown of the day. Junior receiver Donald Porter (Charles Town, W.Va.) then took the snap on a two-point conversion attempt and flung a pass to the back of the end zone that senior tight end Chris Tyler (Rocky Hill, Conn.) leapt for and snagged. At this point, the Seawolves were back on top, 29-26.
After both teams punted on its next possessions, Liberty moved back into position to score when QB Tommy Beecher (Concord, N.C.) put a touchdown scoring drive on his shoulders. Before scrambling for 31 yards down to Stony Brook’s 9-yard line, he completed four of five passes. Two plays after the pivotal scramble, Beecher found Dominique Jones (San Diego, Calif.) who ran a slot pattern across the middle and stretched for a score. This put Liberty back on top, 33-29, seemingly wrapping up the win and the conference title with 55 seconds left.
But, the Seawolves still had one more chance to turn the tide. Starting at the 26 with 48 seconds left, Coulter threw an incompletion on first down. On second and ten, Coulter completed a 64-yard pass to receiver Jordan Gush (Richardson, Texas) who caught the ball with outstretched hands in the open field down the left sideline. Gush sprinted toward the end zone, but was chased down and tackled at the 10-yard line. After a Stony Brook time out, the aforementioned duo hooked up again, as Coulter found Gush for the score that dramatically upended Liberty’s chance at sole possession of the Big South Conference title.
Despite the strong rushing attack throughout the game, the passing game was crucial when it mattered most. Six of Coulter’s ten completions came in the fourth quarter, two of which occurred on the game-winning drive. Coulter finished the game completing 10 of 17 attempts for 157 yards and one touchdown. Gush led all Seawolves receivers with 88 yards on three catches.
Stony Brook, whose seniors were honored before the title game, finished with 405 yards of offense, 248 coming from the ground game. Senior back Cuttino had 89 rushing yards and one touchdown, but the sophomore Gowins stole the spotlight with 165 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Junior safety Arin West (Toms River, N.J.) led Stony Brook with 10 tackles while also breaking up three passes, two of which happened in the red zone. Senior Tyler Santucci (New Kensington, Pa.) tied the Stony Brook record for career solo tackles, finishing his career with 145 to tie Aden Smith ’03.