Chants of “Let’s Go Heart!” reverberated through Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium as Stony Brook fans, muted by deflating turnovers and eager to beat traffic, filtered out of their seats at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
To the dismay of the crowd, the No. 24 Seawolves were held scoreless in the second half, giving up 28 unanswered points in a 38-10 loss to Sacred Heart on Saturday night.
Last week, the Seawolves announced their arrival to the Football Championship Subdivision top-25 with telenovela-grade drama: via a 42-14 routing over a then-No. 2 ranked Richmond team, the program’s first win over a top-five opponent.
The week prior, Stony Brook’s offense folded worse than the post-meal swipes Sodexo-student relationship in 38-0 shutout against Temple. With the pendulum of performance swinging between poles of mediocrity and mastery, it has been near impossible to gauge the pulse of this year’s Stony Brook football team.
“You don’t ever match the same adrenaline week-to-week,” head coach Chuck Priore said. “Sacred Heart beat us really good. I’m very impressed with how they played, how they performed. We certainly didn’t have our ‘A’ game.”
The Seawolves were plagued by four turnovers Saturday night, three of which translated into 17 Pioneer points.
The first one came with less than a minute left in the second quarter. With his team ahead 10-7, backup redshirt sophomore quarterback Pat Irwin fumbled a sloppy snap, which Sacred Heart promptly recovered at midfield.
After Sacred Heart senior quarterback, R.J. Noel connected a 30-yard sideline pass, the Pioneers chipped in a 33-yard field goal to tie the game at 10.
“It was a pretty even game for a half,” Priore said. “They came out with a little more pizazz than us in the second half.”
On Stony Brook’s first drive of the second half, sophomore redshirt quarterback Joe Carbone rolled right to avoid burgeoning pressure and attempted to throw the ball away. But the floater did not quite reach out-of-bounds, and the pass was picked off by senior defensive back Khaamal Whitaker, who ran the ball inside Stony Brook’s 30.
“I think that was one of the turning points of the game,” Carbone said. “It gave them a lot of momentum. I just got to throw that away.”
The Pioneers soon retook the lead after Noel punched in second rushing touchdown of the game.
“I think they’re a really good team, but I don’t think they got our best shot,” Carbone added.
A crafty play-calling arsenal — infused with a flea-flicker, pooch punts from the quarterback and a successful read option — bolstered Sacred Heart to a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter.
“They do some amazing things on offense,” junior defensive back Tyrice Beverette, who recorded nine tackles, said. “They were doing everything we see on film, but it was just in motion. It’s an offense we don’t see too much during the year. But that’s still no excuse… Today we didn’t play at our full potential; we’re a lot better than that.”
The nail in Stony Brook’s coffin came with 12:46 left in the fourth quarter when Carbone threw a pick-six up the middle that was returned 44 yards for a touchdown, bringing the score to its eventual culmination, 38-10.
After a promising first-half offensive start in which redshirt junior running back Stacey Bedell churned for 57 yards, the Seawolves were held to a mere 77 total yards in the second-half.
“We just played down,” Bedell said. “We didn’t play at our full potential.”
Coping with an oft-collapsing pocket, Carbone completed 8-of-21 pass attempts for 97 yards. He was sacked three times and threw two interceptions.
Bedell finished the night with 73 yards on 14 attempts, while his cousin, sophomore Jordan Gowins, tallied 46 yards of his own on 12 attempts.
The Seawolves will have time to recalibrate as they head into their bye week. Stony Brook’s next game will be on Saturday, Oct. 8 when the team takes on the Towson Tigers at Johnny Unitas Stadium. Sacred Heart was Stony Brook’s final non-conference matchup of the season.
“As we’ve seen today, nobody is going to lay down for us,” Beverette said about upcoming conference play. “We’re going to have to go out there and earn everything we’re trying to get.”