One week ago, the Stony Brook football team stepped off the field as heroes, having just conquered defending Colonial Athletic Association champion New Hampshire to the tune of a 31-6 drubbing. This week, the Seawolves will try to replicate that dominance in hostile road territory.
Heading on the road for the first time this conference season, Stony Brook (2-0) will search for its second consecutive victory over a ranked opponent when they play No. 25 William & Mary (1-1) for a 7:30 p.m. battle on Saturday night at Walter J. Zable Stadium in Williamsburg, Virginia.
“They’ll be ready to play,” Stony Brook head coach Chuck Priore said in a Monday conference call. “They play a brand of physical football. We’ll have to match that physicality… we’ll go down there and compete hard.”
William & Mary is coming off a tight contest against the Virginia Cavaliers a week ago in which the Tribe nearly pulled off a stunning defeat of their FBS opponents. Trailing 35-29 with two minutes left, William & Mary had the ball in Virginia territory, looking to take the late lead against a team that was coming off a nail-biter against national powerhouse Notre Dame.
Although the Cavaliers’ defense ultimately forced a turnover on downs to squander the Tribe’s upset bid, the message from the game was clear: William & Mary will be a force to be reckoned with in the CAA this season.
“When you watch the film, they probably should have won the game [against Virginia],” Priore said of a Tribe team that defeated Stony Brook in a 27-21 overtime heartbreaker last season. “We’re a little bit of mirror images of each other. We both rush the football for success and defend the run very well.”
William & Mary head coach Jimmye Laycock had similar praise towards Stony Brook, who received 20 votes in the Week 4 FCS Coaches’ Poll. The Seawolves are looking to reach 3-0 for the first time in their Division I history.
“They’re for real,” Laycock said. “They completely controlled the game against New Hampshire.”
Stony Brook ranks first in the country in yards allowed, with opponents gaining a mere 186.5 yards per game. The Seawolves are also national leaders in 3rd down defense, where opponents have converted on just 20 percent (5-for-25) of opportunities.
“They’re very, very good on defense,” Laycock added. “They come off blocks extremely well and run to the football. We have to get ready for an outstanding team.”
Stony Brook’s vaunted defense will have to deal with William & Mary junior quarterback Steve Cluley, who has 515 passing yards in two games this season, throwing five touchdowns and one interception.
A 52-yard touchdown from Cluley with 25 seconds remaining silenced the Seawolves’ homecoming crowd of 11,301 last season, forcing overtime where the Tribe found victory.
Behind Cluley, senior running back Mikal Abdul-Saboor has played well for William & Mary. The Georgia native has 207 yards this season after leading the conference in the category last season, en route to 1st team All-CAA honors.
Offensively for the Seawolves, junior running back Stacey Bedell has been the superstar, leading the country with 163 yards per game. This leads to high praise from opposing coaches. New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell called Bedell “the best in the league right now” in the Monday media session.
Under center, Stony Brook has fielded two quarterbacks getting similar playing time. Senior Conor Bednarski and redshirt freshman Joe Carbone both threw a touchdown in Saturday’s win against New Hampshire, and Priore says both will continue to see action going forward.
“They’ll both be playing,” Priore said. “We like where we’re at… both are doing well in practice and both are helping us be successful on Saturdays.”