If the Stony Brook Football team (2-1) is going to bounce back from its 21-0 loss against William & Mary from last weekend, it will not be easy. The Seawolves play the No. 5-ranked James Madison Dukes (4-0) at 12 p.m. this Saturday in Harrisonburg, Virginia, in what may be their most daunting matchup of the 2015 season.
James Madison’s offense ranks first in the Football Championship Subdivision in total offense with 671.3 yards per game. Its 50.3 points per game ranks second in the FCS in scoring offense.
The Dukes are coming off of a 48-45 victory on the road in a shootout against the SMU Mustangs, a strong Football Bowl Subdivision program. Their quarterback, senior Vad Lee, is regarded as the favorite for the Walter Payton Award, which crowns the country’s best football player at the FCS level. Lee, a quarterback who is good at both throwing the football and running with it, ranks in the top-five of the FCS in both passing yards with 1,195 and rushing yards with 503.
“You’ve got to be able to play ‘responsibility football’ against their offense,” head coach Chuck Priore said in a media session on Monday. “You cannot go into the game and expect to stop them; you have to go into the game and expect to control them.”
In last season’s home meeting against the Dukes, the Seawolves lost a tightly-contested game, 27-24. A major reason Stony Brook was able to remain competitive was that they held Lee to just 56 yards rushing. He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry.
Priore emphasized the importance of preventing Lee from having success in running with the football.
“We have to limit the quarterback’s ability to run the football,” Priore said. “If there’s one thing out there, we have to limit the yards he gets on the ground.”
While James Madison’s offensive star will be on the field Saturday, Stony Brook will be without junior running back Stacey Bedell, who will be sidelined for the game after coming out in the third quarter of last week’s 21-0 loss with a shoulder injury. Bedell leads the Seawolves with 351 yards on 50 attempts this season. Priore said that he is expected to return Oct. 17 against Towson.
In Bedell’s absence, Priore will look to two other running backs—freshman Isaiah White and sophomore Donald Liotine—to step up. White’s best game came in the opener against Central Connecticut State, where he ran for 103 yards on 17 carries. Liotine had a strong performance against New Hampshire a couple of weeks ago when he gained 44 yards and scored a touchdown.
“It’ll be fun for [White]. True freshman, getting the chance to take the reps,” Priore said. “Fortunately we have Donnie Liotine, who has had a couple of great games, taking the pressure off him a little bit.”
James Madison head coach Everett Withers is not taking Stony Brook lightly, calling the Seawolves, “an even more physical and athletic team [than SMU].”
Saturday’s game against the Dukes will provide an enticing test for the Seawolves, as the team looks to solidify its status as a conference contender after last week’s loss. A win against James Madison would be the biggest victory in program history, and would prove that last week’s loss merely a blip in the road.