Stony Brook Football’s game against Wagner at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on Saturday, which ended with a 38-10 victory, was probably their least important game on the schedule entering this season.
Wagner is now 3-7, plays in a weaker conference and received a $100,000 payout to play the Seawolves on their senior day, Newsday reported. Programs arrange nonconference games like this in an attempt to put easier games on the schedule. However, Saturday’s contest ended up being one of the most intense and costly games the Seawolves have played all season.
“We knew we were going to get their best punch early,” junior linebacker Shayne Lawless said. “We knew they were going to try to out physical us… We just tried our best to keep everyone composed and try to stay away from the chippy stuff.”
There was a lot of “chippy stuff” to go with the physical play on Saturday. Half a dozen shoving matches had to be broken up by officials throughout the game. Stony Brook redshirt-freshman defensive back Elijah Duff threw a punch at the end of a kickoff early in the third quarter. Then, senior wide receiver Ray Bolden was knocked out of the game by a helmet-to-helmet collision that left him unconscious and sent him to the hospital.
“He’s alert. He’s talking,” Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron said at the post-game press conference. “He’s there right now. They’re treating it like a concussion. He should be evaluated and out tonight.”
Bolden was motionless on the turf for 10 minutes as trainers evaluated him and then ultimately strapped him to a backboard. Before he was taken off on a gurney, both sidelines emptied onto the field and formed two separate semicircles around him in silent solidarity. The stadium grew intensely quiet and broke into cautious applause when he was finally carried off the field. The next play, junior running back Jordan Gowins broke a 53-yard run, inserting much-needed oxygen to the suddenly dreary game.
“I got a big spark when that whole thing happened with Ray,” Gowins said. “It really felt like I was playing for something other than myself. That’s when you thrive, that’s when you’re at your best.”
Gowins finished the day with a career-high 125 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. His cousin, senior running back Stacey Bedell, left the game with an undisclosed injury on the very first play from scrimmage.
“Obviously [Gowins has] played well, but he’s been injured a lot,” head coach Chuck Priore said. “Nice thing is the last two weeks he hasn’t been… No matter what kind of talent you have, if you can’t hone the skills and you don’t feel like you’re getting the reps – there’s nothing like getting reps.”
The other running back in the Seawolves rotation, junior Donald Liotine Jr., had 79 yards on eight carries, including a 45-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to put Stony Brook up 21-10. The Seawolves’ other two touchdowns were passes from junior quarterback Joe Carbone to graduate wide receiver Harrison Jackson and junior wide receiver Donavin Washington, in the first and fourth quarters respectively. Junior kicker Nick Courtney hit a 24-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to round out the scoring.
“I’m just happy we got our eighth win,” Jackson said. “I could care less about stats. We won. At the end of the day we won.”
Stony Brook now has an 8-2 overall record and a 6-1 conference record in the Colonial Athletic Association. Ranked No. 12 in the STATS FCS poll and No. 15 in the coaches poll, the Seawolves are eyeing their first Football Championship Subdivision playoff berth since 2012, their final season in the Big South. The team rose to second in the CAA after No. 7/9 Elon lost to No. 18/16 New Hampshire on Saturday. Finishing second in the CAA, one of the best conferences in the FCS this year, could help Stony Brook’s case for a higher seed and a home game when the playoff bracket is announced on Nov. 19.
The Seawolves will have to beat Maine next week to clinch a second-place finish in the CAA. After losing their top two offensive weapons in Bedell and Bolden, it would make sense if the team was concerned about their future, but that does not seem to be the case.
“What we’ve done best is we have people step up when we need them to step up,” Gowins said. “That’s why we are who we are. It’s just about stepping up when your number’s called. That’s it.”
Stony Brook plays its final game of the regular season next Saturday at Maine, who has gone 4-5 this season. Kickoff is at noon at Harold Alfond Sports Stadium in Orono, Maine.