Stony Brook Football returned from its trip to Walter J. Zable Stadium in Williamsburg, Virginia with a 21-18 victory against Colonial Athletic Association foe William and Mary on Saturday. But just barely.
The Seawolves repeatedly assisted the Tribe in the fourth quarter with ill-timed penalties and over-aggressive play. Despite only receiving a single penalty through the first three quarters, Stony Brook received eight penalties for a net loss of 87 yards in the fourth quarter alone. Senior defensive back Chris Cooper was ejected with 29 seconds in the game for a targeting penalty. The mishap resulted in an automatic ejection and will force him to sit out the first half of next week’s game.
Aided by penalties, William and Mary marched down the field to the Stony Brook 21-yard line after beginning the drive on their own 38-yard line with 53 seconds left. Tribe junior quarterback Tommy McKee threw an incomplete pass into the end zone. Then, with only 25 seconds left, William and Mary inexplicably decided to hand the ball off even though the team had used all of its timeouts.
Freshman tailback Nate Evans received the handoff after being the team’s primary source of offense all day. His 82 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards accounted for 54 percent of the Tribe’s offensive output on Saturday. On this fateful play, Evans scratched out four yards, but the clock was ticking and the Tribe was running out of options.
The Tribe’s offense scrambled to reorganize and spike the ball. The clock ticked down to eight seconds and before McKee could snap the ball, sophomore right tackle Garrett Best lurched forward. The false start cost the Tribe five yards and a 10-second runoff – 10 seconds that were not left on the game clock. The officials ruled the game over and Stony Brook began celebrating on the field.
“This was the most interesting ending to a game I’ve ever had,” head coach Chuck Priore said in a press release after the game. “But it’s a ‘W,’ and that is what counts.”
Had Best not flinched, the Tribe likely would have turned to their kicker, sophomore Kris Hooper, for a 34-yard field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime. Hooper missed a 37-yard field goal in the first half, but already made one 34-yarder in the second half.
Luckily for the Seawolves, it never came to that. They walked away with a victory from a game they had lead 21-0 in the third quarter and had generally dominated until late.
“We hurt ourselves in the fourth quarter, but I give William & Mary credit,” Priore said. “This gives us a little dose of reality, and it is great when you can learn from a win, and I think we will learn a lot from this win.”
The Stony Brook offense exploited the William and Mary defense in the first three quarters. The Tribe, who entered the day with a conference-best 72 rushing yards allowed per game, allowed the Seawolves tailbacks to rush for 200 yards. Senior running back Stacey Bedell scored his fifth rushing touchdown and first 100-plus yard game of the season. Junior running back Jordan Gowins finished the game with eight rushes for 57 yards, including several big runs in important situations.
Junior running back Donald Liotine Jr. rushed for 42 yards, the least from the trio of running backs the Stony Brook offense primarily utilizes. But Liotine made up for it elsewhere. He racked up 185 total yards, including 74 receiving yards and 69 yards on kick returns. He also had two touchdowns, one on the ground and one on a 61-yard bomb from junior quarterback Joe Carbone.
The 61-yard touchdown pass was Carbone’s longest of his career and his eighth of the season. Carbone’s emergence as a central playmaker in the Seawolves offense continued on Saturday, ending the day with 182 yards and a touchdown pass on 12-17 passing.
The Seawolves defense was hampered by penalties late, but otherwise performed well against the Tribe’s lackluster offense. Senior safeties Darin Peart and Travon Reid-Segure each had an interception and junior defensive end John Haggart had three sacks.
The victory was Stony Brook’s third in conference play and fourth in a row since their season opening loss to Football Bowl Subdivision No. 19-ranked South Florida. No other team in the CAA has logged three conference games yet, leaving Stony Brook alone atop the conference.
The Seawolves broke into the Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll following the team’s fourth consecutive win on Saturday. The team is currently ranked No. 24 after receiving the most votes of any team outside of the Top 25 in last week’s poll.
Next Saturday, Stony Brook returns to Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium for a 6 p.m. kickoff to host CAA opponent, Delaware. The Seawolves beat the Blue Hens 28-3 in Delaware last season.
Update: Oct. 3rd, 2017, 9:44 p.m.
On Tuesday, the CAA released the following statement in an email: “CAA Football has determined that officials committed a game administration error during the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s contest between Stony Brook and William and Mary.
Following a play that began with 36 seconds remaining in the game, officials penalized Stony Brook for a late hit that resulted in the ball being moved to the SBU 21-yard line. On the same play, a booth review determined that there was also a targeting foul by Stony Brook against a different William and Mary student-athlete. The yardage associated with the targeting penalty was not properly enforced. Had the penalty been enforced, it would have resulted in William and Mary having a first down with the ball at the 10-and-a-half yard line with 29 seconds to go.
CAA Football has notified both institutions of the error. Any disciplinary action associated with this matter will be handled internally by the conference office.”