Stony Brook won its second straight contest for the first time all season on Saturday night, topping Maine 19-7 and improving to 3-4 overall and 2-1 in CAA games.
“Overall pleased with the win. We prepared correctly this week coming off last week’s win,” SBU Head Coach Chuck Priore said after the game. “I think we’re starting to figure out who we are as a team personality wise.”
The Seawolves touted defense got off to a shaky start, giving up a 73-yard touchdown pass on just the second play of Maine’s initial drive. Black Bears quarterback Dan Collins found tight end Jeremy Salmon wide open down the field, who coasted into the end zone.
“The tight end arced like he was blocking, and then released so you had the rover fit his gap and the free safety fill his gap,” Seawolves defensive back Christian Ricard said. “I should have sacked the quarterback on that, I got tripped up.”
Thanks to two consecutive false start penalties, Stony Brook failed to convert a first down on the first of three straight drives. The Seawolves’ running game failed to gain any major yardage and quarterback Conor Bednarski repeatedly overthrew his receivers on rollouts.
“It’s a little frustrating. We were just shooting ourselves in the foot,” Bednarski said. “It’s just about perseverance. That’s just football. It’s a four quarter game. Sixty minutes. It didn’t go our way at first.”
On the other end, SBU’s defense shook off its rough start to grind Maine’s offense down to a halt. Collins was stifled on multiple third downs in the first half by the Seawolves’ pressure, and Maine accumulated just 62 yards of total offense following their first drive of the night. The Black Bears rarely looked to their running game, with just two handoffs in the first half. Maine instead opted for short throws throughout the evening, hoping their receivers would make a play.
Penalties would continue hurting Stony Brook on the offensive, with five penalties for 30 yards in the first half. Priore had to call two time-outs in the first quarter alone.
With 4:48 to go in the first, the Seawolves offense finally got something going, as Bednarski found Jahrie Level on a roll-out to the right to move the chains for the first time, then hit Level again for a nine yard gain.
“[Level] had a great game. He made some crucial passes,” Priore said. “He’s really focused, he’s running down on kickoffs for us and covering kickoffs and he had some great blocks today too.”
Following a sack on Bednarski, the Seawolves could not convert on 3rd and 20 and had to punt it away in Maine territory. Still, this possession ate up almost eight minutes of time for Stony Brook. After Luke Allen’s punt stuck Maine at their own one yard line, the Black Bears went three and out, giving the Seawolves possession at Maine’s 40.
James Kenner and Stacey Bedell, who combined for 216 yards on the ground, pushed the ball deeper into Maine territory, but Stony Brook could only come away with a field goal.
A Davonte Anderson interception just about sent the game into halftime, which completely flipped the script for the Seawolves.
Opening up the second half was Bednarski, who completed three straight passes to carry the Seawolves onto Maine’s 24 yard line. Bednarski found Donavin Washington on a screen for a gain of ten, then Adrian Coxson on a curl route for 13 and a bullet over the middle to Level, who made a leaping catch for a gain of 18.
Bedell then took the ball up the middle, nearly went to the ground spinning off three defenders and finding the end zone for his fifth touchdown of the season.
The ensuing point after attempt was converted, giving Stony Brook a 10-7 lead and all the momentum.
Following scoreless possessions by both teams, the Seawolves chewed up seven minutes and 12 seconds of game time on their way to another six points.
Kenner left a Maine defender glued to the turf with a ridiculous juke to the left on a 16-yard run and Level added to the highlight reel with a bobbled catch he reeled in with an athletic dive. On second and goal, SBU scored on a crafty misdirection as the Seawolves crowded the right side of the field, leaving tight end Will Tye wide open to receive an easy pass by Bednarski on the left.
Kicker Przemyslaw Popek missed the point after, but the game was all but over thanks to the dominant Stony Brook defense.
The Black Bears and Seawolves exchanged three and outs to close the third, and a Dante Allen sack early in the fourth injured Collins, bringing in back-up quarterback Drew Belcher. The second stringer could not piece together a decent drive against
Stony Brook’s suffocating pressure defense, and the Seawolves tacked on another field goal with six and a half minutes remaining to go, holding on to win 19-7.
“It’s a physical team that’ll play together as a team and doesn’t point any fingers ever. If you got that kind of team you got a chance to be good,” Priore said. “We still have a lot of work to do but I think we’re proving that we’ll stick together and fight through it.”
The Seawolves will look to make it three straight when they play Elon on Saturday, Oct. 18.