team tunnel entrance FB v UND sept 1 PC Aracely Jimenez
Senior defensive back Jaheem Woods leads the Seawolves’ defense onto the field in Thursday’s 13-9 win. ARACELY JIMENEZ/THE STATESMAN

Victor who? Not to undermine the collegiate accomplishments of current New York Jets practice squad player Victor Ochi, but his former teammates at Stony Brook looked fine without him in their win against the University of North Dakota. The Seawolves held the Fighting Hawks to 177 total yards and forced two turnovers in their 13-9 win.

Stony Brook’s pass rushing played a huge role in their win, allowing North Dakota junior quarterback Keaton Studsrud only a few quick seconds to make a play before pressure collapsed the pocket. In total, the Seawolves recorded four sacks and 11 tackles for losses. Senior defensive back Jaheem Woods stormed through the line of scrimmage for three of the team’s sacks and also added five tackles for losses.

“Coach asked me to adjust and saw they were singling [Tyrice Beverette],” Woods said. “He got his two sacks and then [coach Chuck Priore] saw that I had the one-on-one with the back and he said, ‘have at it.’”

Last season, Woods recorded 3.5 sacks and six tackles for losses. He is about to reach both marks, which took him eight games to meet last season, in two.

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Outside of individual performance, the Seawolves defended the punt well. In the first quarter, Stony Brook nearly blocked a punt. In the fourth, redshirt freshman Gavin Heslop blocked a punt that senior defensive back Kye Morgan recovered for a game-winning touchdown.

Blocking a punt is nice. Blocking a punt for the game-winning touchdown in your season opener is thrilling. Blocking a punt for the game-winning touchdown in your season opener in your first collegiate football game is a trademark moment.

“The guys on the shield weren’t pointing me out,” Heslop said of North Dakota’s punt protection. “So I knew if I got a jump on the ball, I could get an easy block.” 

The team met before the punt to plan an attack strategy after the coaching staff noticed a pattern in the Fighting Hawks’ punt protection, Morgan explained. Heslop’s side had less linemen defending the block. He took advantage and Morgan managed to scoop the ball, returning it for six points.

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Not only did Woods and Heslop step up; emerging out of the young linebacker corp was redshirt sophomore Shayne Lawless. He had a career-high nine tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage. Last season, he consistently improved and if this pattern continues, he will be poised to become a focal point on the defense.

While Stony Brook proved that it could blitz, the team will have to step up the effort against Football Bowl Division (FBS) opponent Temple. The Seawolves will face the Owls’ all-time leader in total offense, touchdown passes and completions, senior quarterback Phillip Walker, on Sept. 10.

The Seawolves will have to show that they can jam receivers in an offense that is much less run-reliant when compared to the Fightings Hawks’ plan of attack. Woods, Lawless and company will have to be on top of their games to lead Stony Brook’s defense over Temple.

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