Stony Brook Football needed every second of Saturday’s regular season finale to beat Maine 20-19 at Alfond Sports Stadium in Orono, Maine. The victory on a Hail Mary pass to graduate wide receiver Harrison Jackson erased a lackluster offensive performance and secured the Seawolves a second-place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association.
“You always tell the kids to play to the last tick of the clock and literally that happened today,” head coach Chuck Priore said in a press release. “It is a lesson to learn. We played to the last tick and we got it done.”
With 31 seconds left in the game, junior quarterback Joe Carbone and the Seawolves offense got the ball back on their own 27-yard line, down 19-14 to a mediocre Maine team. His first two passes were incomplete, but a pass interference penalty moved the offense to the 42-yard line. Carbone’s next throw was 23 yards down the middle of the field to junior wide receiver Donavin Washington.
Stony Brook had no timeouts left, so Carbone rushed to the line to spike the ball, stopping the clock at six seconds. The very next play, Carbone launched a pass toward the endzone that was reeled in by Jackson, despite four Maine defenders mauling him as he went up for the catch. It was Jackson’s second game-winning reception in three weeks. Stony Brook players and coaches stormed the field to pile on top of Jackson and celebrate the victory.
The game play was sloppy – junior punter Marc Nolan punted a career-high 10 times – but the result was what the Seawolves needed heading into the Football Championship Subdivision playoff selection show tomorrow. Stony Brook finished the regular season with a 9-2 record and a 7-1 conference record. The Seawolves outpaced third-place Elon, who finished with a 6-3 conference record after losing 31-3 to first-place James Madison on Saturday.
The victory over Maine capped the most successful season of football Stony Brook has played since 2012. The team went 10-3 in the Seawolves’ final season in the Big South and it was the last season they made FCS playoffs. The program managed exactly five wins each subsequent season and had yet to pose a winning record in conference play since moving to the CAA in 2013.
It is a remarkable turnaround for a program picked to finish eighth in the CAA by head coaches and media directors in the conference’s preseason poll. Instead, the only team Stony Brook finished behind was James Madison, the No. 1-ranked team in both the FCS STATS and FCS Coaches Polls. Entering this week, Stony Brook was ranked No. 10 and No. 12 in those polls, respectively.
The Seawolves’ first touchdown came late in the second quarter on a drive that consisted strictly of runs from junior running back Donald Liotine Jr., who finished with 115 all-purpose yards. Stony Brook took over at midfield with six minutes left in the half. Gifted 20 yards in penalties by the Maine defense, the Seawolves ran six plays and finished with a 10-yard run up the middle for the score.
Maine redshirt-freshman quarterback Chris Ferguson responded on the very first play following the kick, throwing a 59-yard bomb that landed in the outstretched arms of senior wide receiver Jared Osumah, just as he crossed into the endzone.
In the third quarter, Carbone faked a handoff to senior running back Stacey Bedell and winged the ball downfield in the general vicinity of Jackson and Washington. Jackson came down with the catch and then turned it upfield for 65 yards. A few plays later, Carbone and Washington connected for an 11-yard touchdown to make the score 19-14.
Senior wide receiver Ray Bolden played but only had two catches for 11 yards one week after leaving the game unconscious. Bedell, who left that same game with an ankle sprain, finished with 16 yards on 10 rushes.
The Stony Brook defense shut out Maine in the second half, in part due to sacks from senior safety Tyrice Beverette and junior defensive end John Haggart. Beverette finished with 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks but was ejected for targeting with just under 10 minutes to go. Two other Seawolves, junior middle linebacker Noah McGinty and senior safety Chris Cooper, finished with double-digit tackles.
Stony Brook’s next opponent will be announced on Sunday during the FCS playoff selection show at 11 a.m. on ESPNU. If the Seawolves are awarded one of the top eight seeds, they will have a first-round bye week and will not play again until Dec. 2. If they are one of the lower 16 seeds, they will play next Saturday.