Staked with its first halftime lead in 10 games, the Stony Brook football team looked the best it had all season long. A pair of deep scoring drives saw the Seawolves move the ball in ways they failed to do during last week’s blowout loss at Delaware, and the team’s trademark ‘ground-and-pound’ run game was effectively carrying the offense.
Coming out of the break, however, the Seawolves were thoroughly dominated by the Maine Black Bears en route to a 35-19 defeat on Saturday, March 20 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, falling to 0-3.
“I’m disappointed in our composure at the end,” head coach Chuck Priore said in a postgame press conference. “Certainly, I thought we played a good first half.”
The last time the Seawolves were up at the half? Sept. 28, 2019, a contest with Rhode Island more known for Tyquell Fields’ game-winning 50-yard run on fourth-and-six. Unlike that game, Stony Brook could not hold on for the win. Saturday’s defeat marked the team’s seventh consecutive dating back to the 2019 season.
With Stony Brook up 13-7, Maine received the second-half kickoff. The Black Bears converted two third downs and sophomore quarterback Joe Fagnano finished off the 9-play, 70-yard drive by finding senior wide receiver Andre Miller open in the middle of the field for a 27-yard touchdown.
The subsequent Seawolves possession looked promising as the team reached Black Bears territory. Redshirt-sophomore running back Ty Son Lawton, who ran the ball well all day, coughed the ball up and Maine recovered. Ten plays later, Fagnano found Miller again on a slant route, who got the yards after catch necessary to reach the end zone and give the Black Bears a 21-13 lead.
Miller torched the Seawolves for eight receptions, 133 yards and three touchdowns — all in the second half.
“They schemed a couple things and got us on two big plays at the tight end up the middle and then they hit him with a couple of plays,” Priore said. “We were at a point in the first half where we kept him in check.”
With redshirt-senior defensive lineman Sam Kamara back, Stony Brook was able to hold Maine to just 3.6 yards per carry. Miller was Fagnano’s favorite weapon on Saturday, who completed 18 of 28 passes for 244 yards while scoring five total touchdowns.
The duo of Lawton and redshirt-junior running back Seba Nekhet helped the Seawolves establish the ground game early, with both first-half scoring drives led by their ability to move the ball upfield. Lawton earned a career-high 134 yards on 22 carries, while Nekhet also averaged over six yards per carry with 95 yards on 17 touches.
Yet Fields, whose ability to complete the long ball was one of his strengths in 2019, could not convert the big play on Saturday when Stony Brook needed it. He aired it out numerous times, with the result being an overthrown ball or a drop more often than not. Fields completed just 11 of his 25 attempts (44%) for 108 yards.
“I thought we had opportunities at them,” Priore said about the deep shots. “Maine, they were contested, and we just didn’t come up with the ball several times. It’s not lack of effort. We need to make those plays.”
Fields’ longest pass of the afternoon was a 29-yard touchdown to redshirt-junior wide receiver Delante Hellams Jr. which cut Maine’s lead to 21-19 early in the fourth quarter. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful.
“We wouldn’t have needed it if we didn’t miss the first extra point,” Priore said.
Self-inflicted errors hurt the Seawolves again, as redshirt-sophomore linebacker Chris Campbell was flagged for a late hit on Fagnano on a successful third-and-long stop, which was reviewed for potential targeting. The drive was extended and Maine took full advantage, going up two scores, 28-19, with 7:34 remaining.
The late hit also allowed for a fight to break out in the end zone. Numerous punches were thrown and players had to be physically restrained by their own teammates. Unsportsmanlike conduct flags were thrown against several players on each team, resulting in the ejection of Stony Brook redshirt-sophomore defensive back Gregory Young II and Maine junior tight end Daniel Rymer.
“That’s certainly a lack of discipline,” Priore said. “It starts at the top — it starts with me. Effort plays, the quarterback slid and we came in late, those ones don’t bother me as much as the tit-for-tat, ‘he pushed me, I push him back’ penalty.”
Stony Brook will get another chance to end its multiseason-long losing streak next Saturday, March 27 at Albany in the annual Battle for the Golden Apple.