Stony Brook senior quarterback Conor Bednarski took the first snap of a drive in the second quarter at Towson’s 25-yard-line after his defense stopped the Tigers on the fourth down. Everything was going the Seawolves’ way and another score on top of the football team’s two-touchdown lead could have put the game out of reach. But sophomore defensive lineman Max Tejada came off the edge and forced a fumble that senior defensive back Donnell Lewis picked up and returned for a touchdown.
It was that play that changed the game. Instead of pulling away, the Seawolves saw their momentum disappear into the frigid night on Homecoming in front of a record crowd of 12,177 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. The Tigers clawed their way back to an eventual 21-14 win.
“[It] probably was the pivotal part of the game,” Stony Brook head coach Chuck Priore said after the loss. “They got the momentum back and you know it was a bang, bang play.”
Even with a seven point lead at halftime and both Colonial Athletic Association teams dead even for most of the fourth quarter, Stony Brook winning would be decided by closing—what Priore preached all offseason long.
“It just comes down to making one last play. It’s kind of been the story of our season,” senior quarterback Conor Bednarski said. “We have to make one more play. We’ve been in some close games and just haven’t done enough.”
A lack of offense for most of the game—the Seawolves gained just 224 yards—would have been forgiven if they closed and made that one last play.
It looked like Stony Brook would do it when the Seawolves drove all the way to Towson’s seven-yard-line late in the fourth quarter. Along the way, Bednarski had junior wide receiver Steve Marino open deep over the middle, but overshot him.
“There are some plays that stick with you every game. There’s some stuff that’s going to stick with you,” Bednarski, who passed for 123 yards, said. “That’s one that’s going to stick with me.”
If junior kicker Przemyslaw Popek made a 24-yard field goal with 3:48 to go, the Seawolves still would have taken the lead. Popek missed wide-right to lose an opportunity to put the Seawolves ahead, but the Tigers did not make the same mistake.
“We came out and drove down and you’ve got to finish that drive,” Priore said. “You don’t put it on the field goal kicker or the specialist.”
Going the other way in what was likely a win or go to overtime drive, Towson took only 2:58 to put together their best series of the game.
Sophomore running back Darius Victor capped the 80-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers the lead.
Stony Brook still needs to find players on its team to make that one last play that Bednarski referenced.
Junior running back Stacey Bedell is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. New York Giants tight end Will Tye, who was in attendance on Saturday night, and others like Adrian Coxson, who spent time with the Green Bay Packers early on in the summer, are gone.
Sophomore wide receiver Ray Bolden looked like he was the guy to shoulder the load early against Towson. Within the first 11 minutes of the game, Bolden caught two touchdowns, his third and fourth of the season, in the right corner of the endzone.
It was the spark that the Seawolves needed to snap out of their recent offensive slump. They were outscored by 39 points in their previous two games.
“I think Ray is a very good player, as I think we all witnessed,” Priore said about Bolden. “But you need more than just Ray Bolden. We need to balance our offense.”
But even Bolden knew that the team has to work on more than just the end of the game.
“I feel the story for us all year has been either we’re coming out slow and then picking it up in the second half or as we showed today we came out fast and we slowed down and couldn’t finish,” Bolden said. “We have everything we need. We’ve got to finish games.”
Stony Brook had 50 seconds after Towson scored to crush the crowd’s hopes, and Bednarski started to lead a charge down the field.
A couple of quick passes to Bolden and a strike to Marino gave the Seawolves a shot at chucking it up in the endzone, but pressure from the Tigers’ defensive line made it impossible, leading to an interception to close it out.
“At the end of the day Towson deserved to win the game. They made more plays when it counted,” Priore said. “We hung in there and obviously we need play to better on offense. We need to play better in certain situations on defense. It’s always a team loss.”
Priore did make sure to point out that he thought last year’s team would not have put up a fight like this year’s team did at the end.
At the end of the day, Stony Brook still heads to Maine next week after a loss.
Sophomore defensive back Travon Reid-Segure, who caught his first career interception in the game, said it best. When it came down to the end of the game with the record crowd waiting to see if the Seawolves would win, it was simple.
“They just made plays,” he said. “That’s all it was.”