Stony Brook Football recovered from a week one loss with a dominant performance in a 35-18 win at Rhode Island’s Meade Stadium, a Colonial Athletic Association conference opponent.
Junior quarterback Joe Carbone threw a career-high 184 yards on 14-23 passing for two touchdowns at the school his father, Guy Carbone, played safety for in the 1980s.
At first, it seemed like business as usual for the Seawolves – remarkable defensive play and strong run game. As the game developed, a different look began to take shape for the Stony Brook offense.
With a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter, Carbone led the Seawolves downfield with a not-quite-on-target 40-yard bomb to junior wide receiver Nick Anderson. A 24-yard rush from junior running back Donald Liotine Jr. put Stony Brook within 15 yards of the end zone.
A few plays later, Carbone hit senior wide receiver Ray Bolden in tight coverage for the duo’s first touchdown of the season. Their second touchdown came midway through the third quarter, when Bolden replicated the slant route on a wide open play-action pass that convinced Rams junior safety D.J. Stewart to hesitate instead of dropping into pass coverage. Bolden’s 121 receiving yards on Saturday were a career high.
Neither the touchdown pass, nor the 40-yard bomb to Anderson, was Carbone’s best of the game. At the start of the fourth quarter, Carbone and Bolden connected three times for 60 yards, including a looping 32-yard throw into the arms of a streaking Bolden.
On the replay, Carbone can be seen flicking the ball downfield with a sense of ease and watching it fly. As well as the game went, the junior spent the first half rushing passes and missing some easy targets. The over-the-shoulder throw to Bolden was Carbone’s last pass of the game and the most in-control he appeared all day.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback Tyquell Fields made his collegiate debut with nine seconds left in the first quarter, rushing for three yards. He returned in the fourth quarter and had another run for 15 yards that was called back on a holding penalty.
Although Stony Brook managed only 77 rushing yards, they could run the ball where it counted – inside the 20-yard line. Senior running back Stacey Bedell had two touchdowns from within seven yards and Liotine Jr. scored his lone touchdown from four yards out.
Bedell’s two scores were the 25th and 26th rushing touchdowns of his career, putting him second all-time in program history behind Miguel Maysonet. From 2010 to 2012, Maysonet had 48 rushing touchdowns.
The Seawolves and the Rams were coming off tough week one losses to Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Stony Brook led at the half against No. 19 University of South Florida and Rhode Island lost 30-27 in triple overtime to Central Michigan.
While Stony Brook found the offense they had been missing in Florida, Rhode Island could not completely remedy the flaws that doomed them in Michigan: turnovers.
The Rams began the game with the ball and immediately lost it. On the first play from scrimmage, the diminutive and prolific senior running back Harold Cooper was stripped by Seawolves senior safety Darin Peart at the Rhode Island 16-yard line. Three straight handoffs to Bedell ended in a touchdown that gave Stony Brook a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Rams redshirt-junior quarterback Tyler Harris, a transfer from the University of Central Florida, threw two interceptions, one apiece to Peart and senior defensive back Chris Cooper. While not nearly as damaging as the six picks he threw in week one, the two on Saturday were timely errors. One ended a 65-yard drive and the other put the Seawolves in position to go up 35-10.
The dominant Stony Brook defense shut out Rhode Island’s offense in the first half and held them to 10 points through 57 minutes, allowing a touchdown and a two-point conversion to Rams backup redshirt-junior quarterback JaJuan Lawson in garbage time.
Junior middle linebacker Noah McGinty led the way for the Seawolves with 11 tackles. Senior safety Tyrice Beverette had seven tackles, a sack and a forced fumble before being helped off the field in the fourth quarter for the second week in a row.
Special teams was another highlight for Stony Brook, albeit not in as flashy a way as the blocked punt against USF that earned sophomore walk-on receiver Andrew Trent Colonial Athletic Association Special Teams Player of the Week honors this past week.
Two minutes into the second half, junior punter Marc Nolan let loose a 47-yard punt that the Rams left to bounce into the end zone. Before the ball landed on the turf, sophomore long snapper Billy Barber leapt after it and tipped it back to Peart, who downed the ball on the two-yard line.
Nolan’s punting and the coverage by the punt team limited Rhode Island to 30 punt return yards and consistently put the Rams offense in poor field position. All but two of his punts started the Rams at the 25-yard line or less, leading to four of Rhode Island’s five three-and-outs.
With a victory under their belt, Stony Brook will return to Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium next weekend with a 1-0 conference record. The Seawolves will kick off against Sacred Heart of the Northeast Conference at 6 p.m. on Saturday in their first home game of the season.
Correction: Sept. 13, 2017
In a previous version of this story, The Statesman reported that Marc Nolan’s punting and the coverage by the punt team limited Rhode Island to 30 punt return yards. They limited the Rams to 5 punt return yards.