Every week, our Sports staff will take a deeper look at Stony Brook’s football games and what the team did well and where it went wrong.
First Down: Welcome to last place
On Sept. 19, Stony Brook Football pulled off one of the biggest upsets in team history, as the team defeated No. 13 New Hampshire, 31-6. This was the highest-ranked opponent the Seawolves had ever beaten and at the time, it looked like Stony Brook could become serious Colonial Athletic Association contenders in 2015.
However, the last month and a half has gone much differently for Stony Brook. The Seawolves have lost each of their last four games, matching their CAA loss total from all of last season. This can partially be blamed on a tough schedule—road games against nationally-ranked No. 4 James Madison and No. 17 William & Mary earlier in the season would be tough for any team to deal with. But good teams have to find ways to win, which Stony Brook simply has not done. As a result, the team is in last place in the CAA.
Second Down: A run-heavy offense without any running
Stony Brook’s run-heavy offense has not done very much since junior running back Stacey Bedell suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last month. Saturday’s game against Maine was no exception.
Junior running back Donald Liotine and true freshman running back Isaiah White combined for 23 yards rushing on 11 carries—good for only 2.1 yards per run. This was not close to a good performance for the Seawolves, even considering Bedell’s injury. Bedell averaged 117 yards per game when he was on the field, while the rest of the running corps has averaged a combined 87.5 yards per contest. So it is not surprising that the team has only scored 44 points total during its current four-game losing streak with rushing statistics like this.
Third down: Penalties and takeaways
Legendary football coach and broadcaster John Madden once said, “penalties and takeaways can really kill a team. Usually the team with the fewest mistakes out there will win the game.”
This statement held true on Saturday, as the Seawolves were penalized nine times for 83 yards while losing three fumbles. Stony Brook especially struggled with penalties in the fourth quarter, where it was penalized five times for 30 yards. These habitual penalties significantly hurt the Seawolves’ chances for a late-game comeback.
Maine capitalized on all three Stony Brook turnovers, scoring 17 of its 23 points off of them. One fumble by senior quarterback Conor Bednarski led to a 34-yard touchdown return by Maine junior defensive end Trevor Bates. The other two fumbles handed Maine the ball in Stony Brook territory. Carelessness with the ball routinely put the Seawolves’ defense in bad situations.
Fourth Down: Defense stays strong
Despite the offensive difficulties, Stony Brook still holds the third-best scoring defense in the CAA. The defense kept Saturday’s game close, allowing the Black Bears only one offensive touchdown and 220 total offensive yards.
Stony Brook came into the day with the top passing defense in the CAA and continued to impress on this front, allowing only 127 passing yards. Its rushing defense did well too, holding Maine to 93 yards on 42 carries—or 2.2 yards per carry. The Seawolves could have allowed fewer than the 23 points they gave up had it not been for the offense’s three of turnovers.
Senior defensive lineman Victor Ochi played especially well, recording two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. He is now tied with Joseph Lawrence for second-place on the school’s all-time sacks list with 25, and is just four sacks away from matching David Bamiro’s program record. This pursuit will be one worth watching, even with Stony Brook far from playoff contention as the year comes to a close.
Extra point: Looking ahead
Stony Brook will welcome Elon to Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium for a 12 p.m. game this Saturday. Elon has struggled over the last few seasons, winning no more than three games per season in any of the past four years. The team is 1-3 in CAA play this year, and is coming off of its bye week.
This will be a golden opportunity for Stony Brook to get back on the right track. The Seawolves defeated Elon 20-3 on the road last season.