When a Stony Brook student walks near LaValle Stadium on Thursday afternoon, there will be a noticeable and distinct setting: the smell of grills fired up, rows of cars parked and cornhole games laid across the pavement will set the scene.
This means one thing; college football season is back. Along with a lot of other schools starting their seasons Thursday night, the Seawolves are no different, as they welcome the Bryant Bulldogs to town.
Bryant comes back to Stony Brook for the second straight season, as they were the homecoming opponent a year ago and put a big scare into not only the Seawolves, but also the record attendance of 11,224 at the stadium on Oct. 5, 2013.
During the matchup, the Bulldogs scored on a 13-yard touchdown run by Mike Westerhaus with 13:12 to play in the fourth quarter to pull within one at 14-13.
Kicker Tom Alberti, who returns to the team this year as a senior, then proceeded to miss the extra point, preserving the Seawolves’ lead.
They would extend the lead to 21-13 when Lyle Negron found Devante Wheeler for a 41-yard touchdown pass.
Bryant took their next possession and drove to the Stony Brook 28-yard line before turning it over on downs and icing the game for the Seawolves.
Stony Brook will look to avoid a scare like this in this season’s game, but will have to do it without two key players.
Both senior running back Marcus Coker and junior linebacker Julian Quintin were suspended earlier this week by coach Chuck Priore because of team rules violations, some of which dated back to February.
Coker was supposed to be a main weapon in the offense, especially in an offense that wants to ground and pound this season after an adjustment to the physciality and skill of the CAA last year.
Adrian Coxson and the other senior wideout Jahrie Level will look to lead a young receiving core comprised of two freshman and four sophomores, and give quarterback John Kinder plenty of weapons to throw to.
Do not be shocked if you see a lot of ground and pound this game from the Seawolves, as they have a host of running backs who can carry the load even without their senior Iowa transfer.
James Kenner, Stacey Bedell, and Tyler Fredericks are all very capable backs, and Priore will most likely look to them early and often in this one to lead the offense against a defense that allowed 143.8 yards per game on the ground last season.
Kinder will also be able to add to that running attack, as he was praised by Priore for his athletic escape ability and to make plays with his feet when being named starter on Aug. 19.
The Seawolves will have to look out for defensive linemen Jeff Covitz and Maduka Nwanekezi of the Bulldogs when running.
Covitz finished last season with 10 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss, while Nwanekezi finished with 5.5 sacks and 18 TFL.
The Stony Brook defense, led by Victor Ochi up front and Davonte Anderson in the secondary will look to shut down the Bryant offense.
The priority will mostly be up front in shutting down the ground game.
The Bulldogs had the bulk of their success in this department last season, rushing for 143.2 yards per game last season.
Four backs took 70 carries or more last season for the Bryant ground game, and all of them are back for another season.
Michael Perry and Ricardo McCray return as seniors, while Paul Canevari and Ryan Black return as juniors.
Perry and Canevari led the rushing attack, as Perry rushed for 599 yards, while Canevari totaled 430.
Perry was also a receiving threat last season, catching 21 passes for 143 yards. He was third on the team in catches.
Stony Brook will also be looking to its newest arrival on defense, former University of Oregon linebacker Rahim Cassell, to make big plays on a defense that is very young in the linebacking core with no senior leadership.
The Seawolves had a little bit of trouble stopping the run in last season’s matchup with the team from Smithfield, Rhode Island, allowing 152 yards.
The passing attack does not look as formidable as last season for the Bulldogs, as their top man, Jordan Harris, graduated. He finished last season with 64 catches for 1031 yards and five touchdowns.
The next highest was sophomore Chad Ward, who will look to lead a receiving core in which the top two receivers from last season are juniors.
The Seawolves will want to make sure they are not caught looking ahead, as they have a matchup with an FBS team from the American Athletic Conference in the Connecticut Huskies.
Kickoff in this one is set for Thursday night, the first time ever LaValle Stadium will host a Thursday nighter at 7 p.m.