The Stony Brook offensive line in a game against the Fordham Rams on Sept. 25. The Seawolves will be playing the Delaware Blue Hens at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on Oct. 16. KAT PROCACCI/THE STATESMAN

At 1-5 (0-3 CAA) after last week’s comeback effort fell short against Towson, the Stony Brook football team will return home to face the reigning Colonial Athletic Association champion, the Delaware Blue Hens, at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 16 at 3:30 p.m.

While some may say that there is an asterisk next to Delaware’s conference championship because of the circumstances of the spring season, the Blue Hens went 5-0 in the regular season and won two playoff games before falling to South Dakota State in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) semifinals.

One of their wins in the spring came against Stony Brook – a 31-3 beatdown in which graduate quarterback Tyquell Fields exited in the second quarter with an injury. While redshirt junior quarterback Joshua Zamot struggled to the tune of a 54.5 completion percentage for 83 yards and two interceptions, the Seawolves also lost three fumbles and were consistently hampered by penalties.

The spring meeting is the most recent of five games against Delaware, with the Blue Hens taking wins in three of those matchups. While the No. 14 Blue Hens 3-2 (2-1 CAA) look like the clear favorite on the surface, there is hope for the Seawolves to get back on track this week.

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The Blue Hens’ three wins this season have come against teams with a combined 4-12 record, including Maine and Albany, who are each 0-3 against CAA opponents. Their losses were against very good teams in Football Bowl Subdivision foe Rutgers and 5-0 No. 12 Rhode Island, but Delaware did not exactly blow out the bad teams it beat. Like Stony Brook, Maine and Albany are still winless in conference play, and Delaware beat both by just 10 and five points, respectively.

More importantly, the Blue Hens recently lost starting redshirt senior quarterback Nolan Henderson to a pelvic injury that required surgery. In the spring, Henderson led the Blue Hens to the FCS semifinals and was named to the CAA Preseason All-Conference team for the 2021 season.

Redshirt junior Zach Gwynn will make his second career start at quarterback, with his first coming in last week’s loss to Rhode Island. Gwynn has not been great in his small sample size this year. He has completed 18 of 35 passes for 198 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. The Seawolves have struggled to create turnovers this year, but they might have their best chance to do so against an inexperienced quarterback this weekend.

“Certainly, I feel bad for their quarterback getting injured,” head coach Chuck Priore said in Monday’s media teleconference. “It will be a little challenging because you don’t know exactly what will be happening, but at that point, they have their offense … They’re not going to sway very far from what they do, just like we’re not going to sway far from what we do, so there’ll be a level of consistency.”

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The run game is a key part of Delaware’s offense, led by graduate running back Dejoun Lee, who averages 5.7 yards per carry and leads the CAA with 94.2 rush yards per game. Lee was also named to the preseason All-Conference team and is second to Stony Brook redshirt junior running back Ty Son Lawton for total rush yards this season, but Lawton and the Seawolves have played one more game than Delaware.

“I think their running back and our running back are up at the top of the list in the league,” Priore said. “They’re two guys that probably each week toe the line and make a difference.”

Expect the Blue Hens to lean on Lee to take some pressure off Gwynn. While Lawton should be a big part of Stony Brook’s offense again this week, Delaware has held opponents to 3.8 yards per carry this season and 120 rush yards per game. Lawton averages 5.3 yards per carry and the Seawolves rush for 173.7 yards per game, so the battle in the trenches will be crucial to this game.

Stony Brook currently has the CAA’s top tackler as well as the top rusher. Redshirt freshman linebacker Tyler King leads the conference with 50 total tackles and 29 solo tackles, having led the Seawolves with 11 tackles against Towson last Saturday.

They have had the better season so far, but the Blue Hens’ stock has taken a dip from their spring conference championship and their projected second-place finish in the CAA preseason poll. At 11th place in the CAA through six weeks, there is not much hope for the Seawolves to make a playoff run, but they will have a chance to play spoiler and snap their four-game losing streak this Saturday.

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