When the Stony Brook Football team visited Toledo for the first game on its schedule, the Seawolves jumped on top of the Football Bowl Subdivision team with an immediate touchdown, holding the advantage for an entire quarter before the Rockets took a 16-7 halftime lead. Then lightning struck, eventually cancelling the game and ending a rollercoaster of a night at 12:14 a.m.
It was that kind of a season for head coach Chuck Priore’s team—up and downs on the scoresheet with twists and turns on the injury front. But after a fast start and later a five-game losing streak, senior quarterback Conor Bednarski and sophomore running back Donald Liotine led the Seawolves to an even end to their season at 5-5, winning the team’s third game in a row, 20-2 against Albany.
“When people doubt you it becomes interesting,” Priore said. “Your support is what you count on. People get down on you and I kept on telling the team, you can’t look at the scoreboard. Scoreboard winning is the worst. You’ve got to win on the field.”
Just a few games ago, neither Bednarski nor Liotine were key players on the field, and Bednarski was not even the starter. But the quarterback finished the season strongly against the Great Danes after getting relegated to the backup role earlier in the year behind redshirt freshman Joe Carbone, completing 18 of 27 passes for 163 yards, a touchdown and interception, which caused no damage.
“When I told him he wasn’t going to start that game he said, ‘That’s fine, I understand I haven’t play well and I’ll be ready if you need me,’” Priore recalled. “He was ready when we needed him.”
The quarterback led a group of 13 seniors who played their last game as Seawolves, in front of a crowd of 7,158 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.
A classmate who went out with a bang was senior defensive lineman Victor Ochi. Even after grabbing the top spot alone on Stony Brook’s career sacks list last week, Ochi wreaked havoc against Albany with two sacks, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
“We knew we were going to go out there and make it happen,” Ochi said, before pondering what he would miss most about playing college football. “I don’t know, just everything man.”
While the Seawolves will miss Ochi next season, he helped the team’s defense completely shut down the Great Danes on Saturday afternoon. The only two points that Stony Brook gave up came in the third quarter when Liotine was tackled in his own endzone for a safety.
The defense, however, gave up next to nothing. In 57 plays, Albany only managed to gain 160 total yards, missing the only field goal that the team attempted. Sophomore defensive back Chris Cooper intercepted two passes while the Seawolves also forced and recovered two fumbles.
Stony Brook may not have needed it all on the scoreboard, but it came up with plenty of offense to give the team a cushion.
Liotine rushed for 203 yards and a touchdown, giving him 521 yards in the team’s final three games. After Albany failed to complete a fourth down with 5:55 left in the contest, the running back broke a 56-yard run to effectively put it out of reach.
“I’m really happy and impressed for the kid,” Priore said. “I can’t say enough about his effort. We’ve rode him the last three games as everybody saw and I think that was a good decision on our part, to ride him.”
Bednarski relied on sophomore wide receiver Ray Bolden. With 11 catches, the transfer moved past former Buffalo Bill Kevin Norrell into second on Stony Brook’s Division I single-season receptions list with 68.
Against the Great Danes, he tallied 112 yards and a touchdown.
“Finishing the right way for these two guys [Bednarski and Ochi] and eleven others was all that was on my mind,” Bolden said. “I wasn’t really worried about stats and all that stuff. You just make a play. You’re happy that you’re doing it for the guys who are getting ready to head out. So coming into this game, that was the focal point.”
After a five-game span in which the Seawolves were outscored 124-51, Stony Brook was able to ride the peaks and troughs right back to where it started—an even record.
“It’s been a wild ride, but I guess that’s life, right?” Bednarski said. “Our lowest lows, we were out there grinding every day on the practice field. The stuff that everybody doesn’t see, we were out there working hard every single play all day in practice. So I’m just proud of these guys, I love them.”