Stony Brook Football won 59-29 over the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in the first round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs on Saturday at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. The dominant performance was Seawolves’ second FCS playoff victory in program history and their first since 2011.
Moment that mattered: Stony Brook outscored Lehigh 24-14 in the second quarter after both teams failed to score in the first quarter. However, it was the first few minutes of the third quarter that emphasized the disparity between the two teams. Stony Brook senior running back Stacey Bedell took a handoff on the right hash mark on the first play of the half from scrimmage, ran to the far sideline, spun out of a tackle and ran 31 yards across midfield. On the next play, junior quarterback Joe Carbone found a wide open junior tight end Cal Daniels for a 40-yard touchdown. Two plays and 46 seconds into the second half, Stony Brook had a 31-14 lead.
Lehigh received the ensuing kickoff, but punted after a three-and-out. Carbone handed the ball to junior running back Donald Liotine Jr. three consecutive times to take the Stony Brook offense 47 yards and put the Seawolves up 38-14. Less than three minutes into the second half, Stony Brook had built an insurmountable lead.
What the win means: Saturday’s victory in the first Stony Brook playoff game since 2012 will send the Seawolves to Virginia on Dec. 2 to play top-seeded James Madison. The reigning FCS champion Dukes are riding a 23-game winning streak and coming off a bye for the opening round of this year’s playoffs. The two Colonial Athletic Association teams have not played since 2015, when James Madison won 38-20 in Virginia.
Standout Seawolf: Graduate wide receiver Harrison Jackson has been vital to Stony Brook’s success in the latter half of the season. His game-winning touchdown reception at Maine on Nov. 18 was the number one play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 that night. Two weeks earlier, against Albany, Jackson brought down the game-winning touchdown and a two-point conversion in overtime. On Saturday, Jackson had three catches for 122 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
The Boston College-transfer also found himself in the middle of another highlight play. Midway through the second quarter, Carbone threw to crossing junior wide receiver Nick Anderson for a 25-yard gain. Anderson caught it in the middle of the field and turned up the Lehigh sideline, hurdling a defender as he went. The opportunity for the stunning display of athleticism would be lost had Jackson not streaked across the field and laid down a devastating block on a pursuing Lehigh player. Anderson finished with three catches for 47 yards as he and the rest of the receiving corps tried to make up for the absence of Stony Brook’s top receiver, senior Ray Bolden. Bolden was sidelined with an ankle injury.
- Lehigh’s defense had no answer for Stony Brook’s rushers on Saturday. Four different tailbacks scored and ran for a total of 362 yards. Liotine Jr. led the way with 133 yards and two touchdowns on 17 rushes. Bedell had 11 rushes for 82 yards and a touchdown. Junior running back Jordan Gowins ran for 59 yards and two scores on 10 rushes. Even senior running back Sherman Alston Jr., who had 27 carries coming into the day, scored the first touchdown of his Stony Brook career in the fourth quarter. Alston Jr. finished with a career high 87 yards.
- The Seawolves defense struggled much more defending the pass than they did with the Mountain Hawks’ ground game. Lehigh junior quarterback Brad Mayes threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns. Junior running back Dominick Bragalone, the FCS’ top scorer coming into the week, was held to 75 yards on the ground. Stony Brook junior linebacker Shayne Lawless had eight tackles and a sack. Stony Brook senior safety Tyrice Beverette had seven tackles and a sack after missing the first half due to his ejection in the Maine game.
- Stony Brook’s kickoff and punt coverage teams were excellent on Saturday. Twelve of Lehigh’s 15 drives started inside their own 30-yard line, including two that began on the 2 and 1-yard lines, respectively.
What’s next: The 10-2 Seawolves will travel to Harrisonburg, Virginia next Saturday for a second round match-up with CAA champion and the top-seeded James Madison. The Dukes have a 23-game win streak and were the 2016 FCS national champions.
Correction: Nov. 26, 2017
In a previous version of this story, Mike Adams was incorrectly listed as the author for this article. The letter was written by Joseph Konig.