Mikal Abdul-Saboor took the handoff from Steve Cluley, burst up the middle and scored from 13 yards out on the fifth play of their overtime drive, and the William & Mary Tribe escaped Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium with a 27-21 overtime victory over the Stony Brook Seawolves on Homecoming at Stony Brook.
The Seawolves were not able to convert on their drive, as a Przemyslaw Popek’s 36-yard field goal was blocked, leaving the door wide open for the Tribe to complete their comeback effort.
“I’m proud of our effort, but we did not finish,” Head Coach Chuck Priore said about his team’s performance as the Seawolves fell to 1-4 on the season while dropping their first game of conference play.
The Seawolves took the lead with 1:12 remaining in regulation when Stacey Bedell powered off the right side of the line and took it 33 yards to the house to give the Seawolves the 21-14 advantage.
William & Mary answered with a quick five play, 69-yard drive in just 42 seconds to tie the game. This was capped by a 52-yard touchdown reception by Sean Ballard on an out route, as he flew down the sideline with just 25 ticks left on the clock.
“It was late communication with the corner. That’s strictly on me,” defensive back Naim Cheeseboro said.
Cheeseboro had an overall solid day, leading the charge with 11 tackles, six of which being solo efforts. The 11 tackles ties his career high, which was achieved at James Madison last season.
William & Mary did a good job keeping the daunting Seawolves defense on the field, holding onto the ball for 35:21 through regulation, compared to just 24:34 for Stony Brook.
The time of possession was most likely a direct correlation to the yards allowed, because this Seawolves defense was the only team in the FCS that had a total defense of less than 200 yards per game. Saturday night, they allowed 340, which is 107 more than their previous high against Bryant in the season opener.
“We didn’t really stick to the fundamentals, especially in the fourth quarter, and that came back to hurt us,” linebacker Jeremy Leggiero said.
The Seawolves offense showed a spark that had not been seen since the last time they were at LaValle Stadium, as they were able to put up seven points on back to back drives to end the first quarter.
Marcus Coker snapped his touchdown-less season with 1:47 to go, as he powered in a touchdown from nine yards out to cap a 14 play, 80-yard drive that took 7:18 off the clock. This was the longest drive of the game in all three categories. Davonte Anderson picked off a Cluley pass in the front right corner of the end zone to set up the drive at the 20.
After a Tribe three-and-out, it did not take long for the zone
Seawolves to score again. On the first play of the drive, Bednarski whipped a screen pass to his right, where Adrian Coxson was waiting.
The senior receiver hauled it in, went around a block, and was off to the races, dashing 83 yards for the score on the last play of the quarter.
Coxson finished the day with seven catches for 124 yards and a touchdown, with the 124 yards being a new team-high this season.
The 83-yard catch is also the longest reception of the season.
Bednarski was named starter earlier in the week by Priore and did a pretty good job managing the offense, throwing 16-of-29 for 189 yards and a touchdown.
“He ran the offense well and he can get better and will get better,” Priore said.
William & Mary would inch its way closer and eventually tie the Seawolves.
The first two scoring drives for the Tribe were both double digits, going 12 and 10 plays, respecitively.
John Carpenter hit a 26-yard field goal to cut the lead to 14-3 with 4:33 to play in the first half, and then he hit a 29-yarder on the first drive of the second half.
Just like that, it was a one-possession game at 14-6.
This comeback was helped by the fact that the Stony Brook offense stalled, recording 26 and 36 yards of total offense in the second and third quarters, respectively.
“We have to not look at it as a loss, but as a learning experience,” Anderson said.
Abdul-Saboor scored the first of his two touchdowns in the game late in the third, as he pounded it in from two yards out to cut the lead to 14-12.
The two point conversion was then successfully completed with some trickery, as Abdul-Saboor flipped the ball to Tre McBride in what looked like a reverse, but McBride threw it to a wide open Cluley in the end zone for the two points and the tie game.
No team got inside their opponent’s 30-yard line in the fourth quarter, and it looked as if this game was destined for overtime with no real late game drama.
The Tribe got the ball at their own 20 with 3:22 left with the game in the balance, and the Stony Brook defense shut them down.
In fact, they pushed them backwards 15 yards.
After a punt, this set up the Seawolves in great field position at the Tribe 46 yard line with 1:39 left.
Bednarski hit Coxson for a seven-yard gain on the near sideline, and then Bedell almost broke a touchdown run, but only got six yards out of it.
On the next run, the UMass transfer ran through the right side, hurdled a tackle from behind, and took it the distance, overjoying a LaValle stadium record crowd of 11,301 rowdy fans.
Little did they know, that in 47 seconds, you would be able to hear a pin drop.
That is how long it took William & Mary to even the score. Cluley hit Ballard for eight yards on the first play of the drive.
Then, after an incompletion, he hit Flynn Heald for 10.
The final of the six Seawolves sacks recorded in the game occurred afterwards, as Julian Quintin got to Cluley.
After the first Tribe timeout, Cluley hit Ballard for the touchdown.
In what looked an innocent route towards the far sideline, Ballard was able to turn the corner and take it the distance.
“At the end, we didn’t finish. That was our job,” Cheeseboro said.
This was the first time since 2005 that the Seawolves were defeated on Homecoming, when they took a 10-7 loss at the hands of the Georgetown Hoyas.
The schedule for Stony Brook does not get any easier, as they play Towson on the road on Oct. 4.
The Tigers finished 6-2 in conference play last season, but are off to an 0-1 start after losing at home to the defending Colonial Athletic Association champion Maine Black Bears on a touchdown in the final minute.