Stellar defensive play and the Carbone-Bolden connection helped Stony Brook Football defeat No. 17-ranked Richmond, the Football Championship Subdivision’s second best offense, in a 27-24 victory on Saturday at E. Claiborne Robins Stadium.
Junior quarterback Joe Carbone and senior wide receiver Ray Bolden connected 13 times for two touchdowns and 118 yards en route to the team’s sixth victory this season. The Seawolves have not won more than five games in a season since 2012, the team’s final year in the Big South before moving to the Colonial Athletic Association.
The threat of Richmond redshirt-senior quarterback Kyle Lauletta loomed large throughout the game. Lauletta, who leads the FCS in passing yards per game, was held to 141 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Then, late in the third quarter, Lauletta connected with junior wide receiver Dejon Brissett for the duo’s second touchdown of the game, narrowing the Seawolves’ lead to 20-17.
Head coach Chuck Priore and his offensive coordinators opted to play conservatively with a 10-point lead, running the ball on three consecutive plays with junior halfback Jordan Gowins. Gowins, who appeared to hurt his head or neck on the final rush, got nowhere. The Seawolves punted and gave Lauletta a short field to revitalize his offense.
Not wanting to give Lauletta and the CAA’s best offense the ball back with only a three-point lead, Priore and the Seawolves executed a series of much more aggressive play calling. Six of the eight plays on the ensuing 73-yard drive were passes, including a 22-yard touchdown pass from Carbone to Bolden.
It was the kind of drive that often fell short last season and is emblematic of the Seawolves’ improvements in the last 12 months. Carbone’s confidence and ability to take control of the offense is a major reason the team has been successful this season.
Richmond scored once more – a 90-yard touchdown drive that took up 3:51 of game clock – but mismanaged timeouts and a botched onside kick doomed their hopes of a fourth quarter comeback. Lauletta, a preseason nominee for the FCS’ Offensive Player of the Year award, finished with 310 yards and three touchdowns on 33-52 passing.
Carbone was effective all game, making the most of his 161 yards on 19-29 passing. He repeatedly fooled the Spiders’ defense on play-action passes, including a first quarter touchdown pass to Bolden. The Seawolves were gifted short yardage early after Richmond fumbled a punt on their own 12-yard line that senior safety Darin Peart recovered.
Stony Brook’s other scores came via junior kicker Nick Courtney and junior halfback Donald Liotine Jr. Courtney kicked two field goals, 33 and 22 yards, in his first start of the season as the placekicker. Courtney got the nod after recent struggles with the previous starter, junior kicker Alex Lucansky. However, Lucansky still managed kickoffs for the Seawolves.
Liotine punched in a second quarter touchdown, trucking opposing junior linebacker Justin Rubin for a three-yard score. On the play prior to the touchdown run, Rubin had stopped Liotine in his tracks with a big tackle. Liotine finished with 32 yards on 13 rushes. His partner in the backfield, senior running back Stacey Bedell, finished with 69 yards on 16 rushes.
Defensively, the Seawolves applied significant pressure to Lauletta and his receiving corps throughout the game. Sophomore defensive end Sam Kamara had a sack, and the secondary played tight, intense coverage on the Richmond receivers from the first snap. Three secondary starters – Peart, senior safety Tyrice Beverette and sophomore corner Gavin Heslop – spent time on the sideline with injuries.
On the offense, Gowins, senior left tackle Timon Parris and junior wide receiver Donavin Washington were also helped off the field at various points. Both Parris, who made his 41st consecutive start on Saturday, and Washington had a Richmond defender fall on their right ankles. Parris has been scouted by NFL teams this season, and his injury could be a huge loss of talent and leadership for the Seawolves. The severity of his injury was not immediately clear, but he was carted from the sideline to the locker room in the second quarter and did not return.
The Seawolves, who are ranked 22nd in the STATS FCS poll and unranked in the FCS Coaches Poll, could move up in both polls after their second victory against a ranked opponent in as many weeks.
Stony Brook returns home to Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium next Saturday to face CAA and in-state rival, Albany, at 1 p.m. The Great Danes dropped to 3-5 with a 1-4 conference record after a loss to Delaware on Saturday.