The Stony Brook football team (1-2) will be traveling 1,500 miles to Grand Forks, North Dakota to take on the University of North Dakota (1-2) this Saturday.
The Seawolves come off a 20-3 home win on a soggy Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium field against American International on Saturday night, a win that was highlighted by their rushing game. Stony Brook backs carried the ball 299 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown from sophomore Stacey Bedell. Both Bedell and senior James Kenner topped 100 yards in the contest.
North Dakota’s most recent game was a 38-0 loss at the hands of Missouri State University. UND did not play horrible defensively in the blowout. The score was a result of the team turning the ball over three times on their own end of the field and having a mere seven first downs in the game.
The teams last played each other in North Dakota in 2009, with the Seawolves losing by a score of 31-24. But, given the offensive showings from each team so far this season, it is unlikely that this Saturday’s game will be as high scoring.
Offensively, particularly in the passing game, SBU has been off to a disappointing start. Stony Brook has been waffling back and forth between two quarterbacks, Syracuse transfer John Kinder and junior Conor Bednarski. Both quarterbacks have shown promise, but have failed to produce consistently. Combined, the passers have a completion percentage of just 37.3 percent on the season, the second worst of any FCS team.
To make matters worse, Stony Brook is converting just 16.7 percent of their third down attempts this year, many of which are pass plays. That is also the second worst in the Football Championship Subdivision.
The North Dakota pass defense has struggled so far this season, allowing seven touchdowns with zero interceptions on pass plays. UND opponents are averaging 8.3 yards per attempt through three games. This may provide the Seawolves with the spark they need to gain confidence on pass plays before they begin conference play next week.
North Dakota will face a stellar defensive corps from Stony Brook, a group that is third in the FCS in terms of yards allowed per game yielded only two offensive touchdowns through three games.
The UND offense has been anemic themselves through three games, scoring two touchdowns and averaging only 226 yards per game so far. North Dakota’s quarterback is sophomore Joe Mollberg, who has 351 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions so far this season. He is also a threat on the ground, carrying the ball 24 times for 96 yards.
Against UConn two weeks ago, the Seawolves allowed Huskies quarterback Chandler Whitmer gains of 17 yards and 20 yards scrambling, so Stony Brook’s ability to contain Mollberg will be something to keep an eye on.
Stony Brook’s defense has been led by rover Christian Ricard, who led the Seawolves in tackles last season with 91 and leads the team this season with 27.
Defensive back Naim Cheeseboro has been a turnover-forcing machine for the Seawolves, with a fumble recovery for a touchdown against UConn with an interception and forced fumble against American International.
The weather forecast for Saturday indicates a 40 percent chance of precipitation, but the rain will be irrelevant in Alerus Center, the dome in which the UND football team plays. It is one of only six domes in the FCS. The last time Stony Brook played in a dome, they nearly upset Syracuse in a 2012 thriller in the Carrier Dome.