Football is just a few days away from making its return to LaValle Stadium.
Stony Brook will play its home opener on Saturday at 6 p.m. against the Central Connecticut Blue Devils. This will be the Seawolves’ second attempt at recording a game after lightning storms suspended their season opener in Toledo. That game will not count in the standings or for personal statistics.
Saturday’s game could be Stony Brook’s most favorable matchup of the season. The Blue Devils went 3-9 in 2014 and are projected to finish sixth in the seven-team Northeastern Conference this year. They lost their opener to Lehigh 20-14.
Central Connecticut’s offense ranked in the lower third of the Football Championship Subdivision last season. The team was 84th in passing, 70th in rushing and 91st overall. The team’s 2014 leading passer Nick SanGiacomo, rusher Rob Hollomon, and receiver Tyrell Holmes have all departed. In fact, the Blue Devils have just nine total seniors on their roster, showing that this team is in a rebuilding phase.
When this inexperienced offense faces off against a stellar Seawolves defense, Stony Brook has a colossal advantage. Stony Brook’s defense was ranked third in the FCS last season and was dominant at times against Toledo. Toledo had the 15th-best offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision last season, averaging nearly 500 yards per game, but only managed 195 yards of offense in one half of play against Stony Brook. Considering this was an FBS-FCS matchup, it was a solid performance for the Seawolves.
This game will be senior defensive back Naim Cheeseboro’s first chance to call plays at home on defense. The preseason All-CAA selection will have sizable shoes to fill; departed senior safety Christian Ricard was the play-caller last season and did a very solid job. Luckily, he will have a less-than-spectacular passing game to test his leadership skills against. “Cheese” is coming off a year in which he recorded 76 tackles, six tackles for loss and two interceptions.
On the other side of things, Central Connecticut fields an above-average defense. The Blue Devils ranked 32nd in the FCS in total defense last season, 53rd in rushing and 21st against the pass. They are led by junior defensive back Jevon Elmore, who led the team with three interceptions in 2014. Junior defensive lineman Asia Bolling, who recorded six sacks last season, is another exceptional contributor on defense for the Blue Devils.
Stony Brook will likely have a run-heavy game plan, with junior running back Stacy Bedell likely carrying the bulk of the load. He was stellar against Toledo, running for 48 yards on three carries in Stony Brook’s 13 play, 76-yard touchdown drive in Thursday’s suspended contest. Bedell has proven that he is capable of playing against tough defenses during his time at Stony Brook.
The Seawolves have favorable matchups on both sides of the ball waiting for them this Saturday. Stony Brook enters the game as heavy favorites and for good reason. SBU held its own against Toledo for a while, and Central Connecticut is nowhere near the team that Toledo is. The fact that the game will be played at LaValle Stadium also bodes well for Stony Brook, as it is where the Seawolves won three of their five games last season.