Trailing No.13 Villanova 21-0 with five and a half minutes remaining in the first half, Stony Brook Football was in dire need of a successful scoring drive.
The Wildcats defense held the Seawolves “Long Island Express” tandem of senior running backs Donald Liotine and Jordan Gowins to less than five yards per carry up to this point. Stony Brook senior quarterback Joe Carbone was determined to dig his team out of its hole despite facing an aggressive Villanova defense and starting at their own 20-yard line.
“We’ve been in this position before against Air Force,” Carbone said in a post-game interview. “And we all agreed, together as a team, that’s never going to happen again and they are never going to break us. And we didn’t break, we just regrouped, got back out there and kept playing football. It’s a four quarter game and as we were saying all week, it came down to the fourth quarter.”
Carbone led the Seawolves down the field and found redshirt-senior wide receiver Julius Wingate inside the right edge of the end zone to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 21-6 before the end of the half. The touchdown was part of a 29-0 Stony Brook scoring streak en route to a thrilling 29-27 comeback victory at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on Sept. 29.
“I am really proud of this team,” head coach Chuck Priore said following the victory. “When I reflect back to last weekend, I told my coaches Richmond didn’t want to play in the second half and I really believe that because their heads were down. Sure we scored that last drive late in the first half but when I walked in that locker room, you would have thought we were up 21-0.”
Carbone was 20 for 35 with 270 yards and three touchdowns. The completions, yards and touchdowns were all season highs. His third touchdown was indicative of the excellent composure that he maintained in the pocket throughout the game, fooling the Wildcats defense with a play-action pass and finding senior tight end Cal Daniels wide open in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown to give the Seawolves a 29-21 lead with a little over four minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“We knew they were going to load the box,” Carbone said. “They were going to try and make us throw to the team because we got Donnie and Jordan. The offensive line did a great job today protecting really well and the receivers made great plays.”
Villanova was down but not out despite losing the lead and senior quarterback Zach Bednarczyk following a third-quarter sack in the end zone. Sophomore quarterback Jack Schetelich shook off a cold start and drove the Wildcats to the end zone, cutting the Seawolves’ lead to two points with under a minute remaining in regulation.
Stony Brook burned two of its three timeouts as it attempted to counter a unique offensive formation from Villanova which saw only the center and right guard on the offensive line and set eight men as eligible receivers. Priore told his team to remain composed and get the job done, something redshirt-sophomore linebacker EJ Fineran took to task as he swatted away the potential tying points to preserve the victory.
“I was reading my key,” Fineran said after the game. “It ended up being the tight end and I just followed him and knew that I had to make the play. I knew that was the play we needed to stop the run and after that, it was over.”
The score was not the only thing Stony Brook had to overcome. Injuries affected several of the Seawolves’ offensive players. Senior wide receiver Nick Anderson missed his first game of the season while Gowins and Liotone participated in limited practice throughout the week. The dynamic duo of Wingate and junior wide receiver Andrew Trent stepped up, combining for 12 receptions which went for 205 yards and two touchdowns.
“In our receiving core everyone is expected to step up,” Wingate said. “Whether it’s due to injury, it’s always about the next man up and produces as best as he can. We don’t look at our opponents as being too great and we step up to the best of our ability.”
Stony Brook will now head on the road for a two-game road stretch against the Towson Tigers and the New Hampshire Wildcats. The Seawolves will face off against the 0-4 Tigers on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 4 p.m. in a Colonial Athletic Association conference matchup.