HEATHER KHALIFA / THE STATESMAN)
The Seawolves will face the American International College Yellow Jackets on Saturday, Sept. 13.  (HEATHER KHALIFA / THE STATESMAN)

Following a 19-16 loss to the UConn Huskies, the Stony Brook football team looks to regroup and pick up their first win of the season as they travel back home to face the American International College Yellow Jackets.

The Yellow Jackets, the defending Northeast-10 champs, are coming off a 9-3 season and a berth in the NCAA Division II playoffs. American International also comes into the game with an unblemished record this season, coming off a win in their season opener against Assumption College.

Unlike the Yellow Jackets, the Seawolves will arrive at LaValle Stadium on Saturday with a disappointing 0-2 record. But if there is any silver lining that can be from those two losses, it is that the defense has been stout in both games. After allowing just 13 points against Bryant, the Seawolves continued their strong defensive showing by holding FBS opponent UConn to 19 points.

In addition to keeping opponents off the scoreboard, the defense has made it difficult for opponents to move the ball down the field. Through two games, the Seawolves are allowing the opposition only 228 yards of total offense per game while also forcing three turnovers, with one of those being recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.

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Although the defense has been a bright spot for the team, the offense will need to put together a more complete game if it hopes to come away with a win against American International. The offense has been ineffective to start the season, averaging only 243 yards of total offense. The passing game, in particular, will need to improve if the Seawolves hope to win.

Coach Chuck Priore has and will continue to utilize a two-quarterback system in the hopes of finding a new star. However, quarterbacks John Kinder and Conor Bednarski have only a combined average of 148.5 yards while only completing a little more than 38 percent of their passes. Both quarterbacks will need to become more of a threat to alleviate pressure from running backs Marcus Coker and Stacey Bedell to form a more balanced offense.

Fortunately for the offense, the Yellow Jackets field a defense that is prone to giving up yardage, something that the Seawolves should look to capitalize on. Although American International’s defense gave up 400 yards of total offense against Assumption, they did force three turnovers. Forcing turnovers seems to be a trend for American International, a team that picked off 22 passes last season. One of the leaders of that ball-hawking defense is Daquan Holmes, who started off his season with two interceptions, a player that Kinder and Bednarski should avoid if they hope to be effective.

Another reason it is imperative for Priore to get his running backs going is to try and control the clock against a potent American International offense that averaged 32.6 points per game last season. An integral part of the American International offense is the reigning Northeast-10 offensive player of the week, Stephan Davis. Davis is looking to continue to build off of a nine-catch, 174 yard, two-touchdown performance in their season opener. However, starting quarterback Kevin Arduino sustained what seems to be a knee injury in the first half of that game, so the Seawolves should be looking to pressure first-time starter Shawn Brathwaite.

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American International has seemingly picked up where they left off last season by shredding Assumption’s defense for 327 yards passing and three touchdowns, as well as an additional 118 yards rushing.

To keep the ball away from a dangerous American International offense, the Seawolves will need to convert more 3rd downs. The problems on 3rd downs stem due in large part, from the offense’s trouble mustering anything on 1st and 2nd downs. Against UConn, 12 of their 18 third down attempts were 3rd and 5 or longer, with the Seawolves converting none of them, and converting just three 3rd downs the whole game.

Another contributing factor to the long 3rd downs has been the penalties. Coming into Saturday’s game, the offense has committed nine penalties for 100 yards, which is way too much for an offense that is still finding its footing. Notwithstanding the penalties and third down conversion rate, the Seawolves have won the time of possession battle in both their games, something it can look to capitalize on again in their matchup against American International.

Another strong defensive outing paired with a more focused, consistent and clock-controlling offense should spell success, and a win, for the Seawolves against American International.

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