The Stony Brook football team had already been in this scenario multiple times this season. After playing a difficult CAA opponent tough for the majority of the game, the Seawolves were on the verge of another fourth-quarter collapse.
James Madison had turned a 41-24 fourth quarter SBU lead, into just a three-point game. And with 2:03 to go, Stony Brook faced a fourth-and-one situation at their own 44-yard line, and looked as if they were ready to punt the ball back to the red-hot Dukes offense.
But a bold late game decision by head coach Chuck Priore to have his offense go for it on fourth down would pay off as quarterback Lyle Negron picked up the first by running up the middle for two tough yards.
This was just one of many key plays made by Negron, who broke out of his recent slump in a big way, leading his team to a 41-38 road victory over James Madison. The senior threw for 23-of-32 for a career-high 395 yards. He also threw three touchdowns and ran for two more.
The Stony Brook passing attack got going early on Saturday afternoon. Just 1:21 into the game, Negron found junior wideout Adrian Coxson for what turned out to be a 75-yard touchdown pass.
After catching the pass, Coxson was able to avoid three defenders on route to the end zone. The connection was the longest pass of the season so far for the Seawolves.
On their next drive, Negron would find senior wide receiver Malcolm Eugene for a 36-yard gain to get the ball to the Dukes’ 15-yard line. Five plays later, Negron would rush it in from the two-yard line to give his team a 14-3 lead.
With 1:52 left in the opening quarter, James Madison quarterback Michael Birdsong would find Deane Cheatham for a 12-yard touchdown pass to cut SBU’s lead to four. But in the second quarter, the Stony Brook offense would begin to break things open.
After a 31-yard field goal by Graham Ball made it 17-10, the Seawolves would quickly get the ball back after senior defensive back Derrick Morgan came up with his first career interception. On the second play of Stony Brook’s ensuing drive, Negron would find junior tight end Will Tye for a 35-yard touchdown pass.
Late in second quarter, Negron would find the end zone again, this time on a one-yard touchdown run to give his team a 31-10 lead. But James Madison would come with an important score before the end of the half, when Birdsong delivered a 33-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Ravenel with just 11 seconds left in the quarter.
Early in the second half, the combination of Negron and Tye would strike again for Stony Brook. Tye’s 22-yard touchdown reception would give his team a 38-17 lead with 11:34 remaining in the third quarter.
But the Seawolves would once again falter in the second half, especially in their pass defense. With 3:19 left in the third quarter, Birdsong would cap off a nine-play, 54-yard drive by finding Arlandis Harvey for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
With 11:54 remaining in the fourth quarter, James Madison would go 80 yards on just four plays for a touchdown. A 32-yard pass by Birdsong to Daniel Brown finished off the quick drive down the field and made it a 41-31 game.
Then with 4:57 remaining, Birdsong would find Brown again in the end zone to cut a once-comfortable Stony Brook lead to just three.
But the Dukes would never get the ball back into the hands of the red-hot Birdsong as their defense could not come up with a key stop. A 15-yard rush for a first down by junior running back James Kenner, following Negron’s first down effort, would seal the victory for Stony Brook.
For the second straight week the Seawolves found themselves in a shootout. SBU had 485 total yards of offense in the game, while the Dukes had 475.
Stony Brook got big games out there three biggest receiving targets on Saturday. Coxson had a career day pulling in nine catches for 183 yards and a touchdown. Eugene also had 106 receiving yards, while Tye had 93 receiving yards.
Birdsong threw for 355 yards and five touchdowns in the game. He completed a pass to eight different receivers on the day.
While the Seawolves secondary struggled as whole in the game, there were some impressive individual performances. Junior defensive back Christian Ricard had a career-high 17 tackles, and sophomore defensive back Naim Cheeseboro had a career high 11.
The win for Stony Brook was particularly impressive, not only because they were once again shorthanded and banged up throughout the lineup, but also because they were playing a desperate team in James Madison. The Dukes may have had their playoff hopes disappear with Saturday’s loss, as their record fell to 6-5 overall, and 3-4 in CAA play.
The Seawolves will now close out their season this Saturday at home against in-state rival Albany. Kickoff time is set for 1 p.m.