Thousands of people packed Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 29. The screams of excitement were so loud they could be heard all around campus. Fans, students, alumni and families anxiously awaited the opening kickoff. The moment redshirt-senior kicker Nick Courtney’s cleat made contact with the ball, the Stony Brook Football season began.
Coming off a season in which they went 7-5, including 5-0 at home, the Seawolves opened the season at home versus Bryant University. The final score, 35-10 Stony Brook, appeared to be headed for a larger margin of victory with only 11:30 remaining in the fourth. Due to costly penalties and defensive miscues, Bryant was able to score their first touchdown of the season with 7:30 left in the fourth.
“It was a good team win. I thought our kids came out ready to play tonight,” head coach Chuck Priore said in a postgame press conference. “We played a ton of kids in the first half and then we came out and took control of the game on the first drive of the second half. Once we got that going, I thought we were in good shape and we continued to play a lot of players throughout the second half.”
When Stony Brook football is brought up in conversations with well-versed FCS media members, numerous items are discussed. But the two things that stand out are: Stony Brook plays physical, rugged defense and they will run the ball from many different angles; the Seawolves did both in Thursday night’s game.
The Seawolves, who scored six defensive touchdowns last year, got the ball rolling with 6:58 left in the first quarter with a 22-yard pick-6 by redshirt-senior defensive back Synceir Malone. By the end of the first quarter, the Stony Brook defense had forced Bryant offense into throwing two interceptions, the second INT coming via redshirt-junior linebacker Elijah Duff, with only nine seconds remaining and punting four times. The Seawolves gave up 24 total yards of offense in the first quarter. By the time the final horn sounded and the clock struck zero, Bryant had punted nine times, while throwing two interceptions and only scoring 10 points. While people assumed the defense would have a big game, the offense matched the output of defenses on the night.
The “Long Island Express,” Stony Brook’s back field duo last year of Donald Liotine and Jordan Gowins, accounted for most of the offense’s run production. There was speculation in the media that the Seawolves run game would take a hit and have a drop off in output. It didn’t. The Seawolves run game, which produced a combined 247 yards on the ground, saw most of the yards come from four players. Junior starting quarterback, Tyquell Fields, along with running back, redshirt-senior and team captain, Isaiah White, and redshirt-freshmen Ty Son Lawton and Alex Indelicato, each rushed for at least 50 yards from scrimmage.
Former quarterback Joe Carbone ran the Seawolves offense for the last three years while Fields was forced to sit on the bench and watch, playing sparingly. Fields got his first start on Thursday since his final game of high school, and it showed at the beginning of the game. After a shaky first quarter — which saw Fields fumble and lose the ball on the one-yard line in the red zone and an interception — he quickly regained composure. Fields final stat line, 10-20 for 194 passing yards with a passing TD and one INT along with 67 rushing yards and a rushing TD, gave fans a glimpse of what to expect throughout the season.
“This is a young team, it’s our first time being in a game situation, and I felt we just got comfortable as the game went on and we just started clicking,” Fields said in the post-game press conference.
There were many notable performances by Seawolves players Thursday night. The defense — led by redshirt-senior defensive back and captain, Gavin Heslop — had numerous standouts. l Heslop had three tackles for loss for 14 yards, including an 11-yard sack. Roaming the field and forcing quarterbacks to throw Heslop’s way were redshirt-junior rover Augie Contressa — who added seven total tackles — and junior linebacker Keirston Johnson, who also had seven tackles in his Stony Brook debut. Johnson came into Stony Brook in the spring following two years at the University of South Florida (USF).
On the offensive side, the biggest recipient of Fields big passing night was redshirt-senior and wide receiver, Andrew Trent who caught three passes for 79 yards, and redshirt-junior tight end, Peter McKenzie who hauled in a pass from Fields for an eight-yard TD.
The Seawolves, who have now won 10 straight games at home, will have a little extra time to prepare for next week’s road trip out west. Stony Brook will face FBS foe Utah State in Utah on Sep. 7, with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST.