Having led all game, it looked as if the Stony Brook offense was finally stymied, going three-and-out on three consecutive fourth quarter possessions. The momentum was in the hands of the No. 14 Delaware Blue Hens, who needed just a field goal to tie.
Then, the Seawolves defense picked the most opportune time to record their first sack of the game. Redshirt junior defensive lineman Makye Smith was the one who forced the ball out and graduate defensive lineman Brandon Lopez was the one who recovered it and took it inches short of the goal line.
An ensuing QB sneak gave Stony Brook the definitive 27-17 lead with 6:21 left in the game.
The strip-sack was the Seawolves’ defensive unit’s first takeaway since week two against Colgate. Redshirt senior defensive back Randy Pringle then recovered a Delaware muffed punt in the end zone with 1:43 remaining, bringing the score to its 34-17 final on Saturday, Oct. 16 at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.
The upset win over a ranked Delaware (3-3, 2-2 CAA) program ended Stony Brook’s four-game losing streak and avenged last season’s 31-3 loss. It was also the Seawolves’ first home win in over two years.
“There was a lot of people that were wondering where Stony Brook football was, and if they looked at all three CAA losses … they wouldn’t have asked that question,” head coach Chuck Priore said about how close the defeats were in a postgame press conference. “But winning is important to people. I’ve been fortunate enough to win a lot of games. I’ve lost my share. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how to lose and correctly evaluate it.”
Stony Brook (2-5, 1-3 CAA) made history on the team’s first offensive play of the game. Starting their opening drive from their own 1-yard line because of a downed punt, redshirt junior running back Ty Son Lawton broke a tackle, busted through the middle and ran untouched to the end zone for a 99-yard touchdown on Stony Brook’s first play of the game.
“When I tripped and stood up, I thought I could take it the whole way because all the safeties were out of the way,” Lawton said. “I was surprised when it happened but as I’m running, I’m very excited, I’m very hyped. I just want to get to the end zone immediately at that moment.”
It was the longest run in Stony Brook program history.
“When the ball went to the 1-yard line, unfortunately, my mind and everybody else’s said, ‘That’s Stony Brook’s luck this year,’” Priore said. “I didn’t know [Lawton] had that gear in him, to be honest … That honestly gave us the belief that we could win.”
Stony Brook’s second scoring drive came about extremely differently than its first. The 14-play, 84-yard, six-minute possession was extended by a pass interference call against Delaware on fourth down and bolstered by a 22-yard pass by graduate quarterback Tyquell Fields to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Shawn Harris Jr. to the 1-yard line. Lawton pounded it in for his second touchdown of the day, but a high snap resulted in a failed extra point and a 13-0 lead.
In a clash of the top two rushers in the Colonial Athletic Association, Delaware graduate running back Dejoun Lee came alive in the second quarter to propel multiple Blue Hens scoring drives. He was held to just eight yards on five carries in the first quarter, but broke free for gains of 28 and 43 yards as the Blue Hens entered halftime having scored 10 unanswered points to cut their deficit to a field goal.
Lawton entered the game with 544 yards on the season to Lee’s 471. The battle for the rushing crown was on Lawton’s mind as extra motivation.
“I was thinking about that all game,” he said. “It was getting me hyper to want to make bigger, better plays as well.”
Lawton broke his single-game high again with 192 yards on 22 carries, adding two more touchdowns to extend his CAA lead to eight. Lee had 91 yards on 15 attempts for Delaware. The monster effort put Lawton at a conference-high 736 total rushing yards, propelling him (105.1) over Lee (93.7) in yards per game.
“He missed almost all of preseason this year,” Priore said about how Lawton’s health contributed to his breakout season. “Missed last spring with a quad and over the previous two years, he’s battled. But I’ve seen his development when he came here after spring of his freshman year. We thought he had the potential to be special and I think he’s shown that in a big way over the course of the last month.”
Delaware started redshirt junior quarterback Zach Gwynn, the backup, with first-stringer redshirt senior Nolan Henderson likely out for the season as he underwent abdominal surgery on Tuesday. Following his fourth quarter fumble, he took another big hit that removed him from the rest of the game. Gwynn completed 115 of his 199 yards and both of his touchdowns to graduate wide receiver Thyrick Pitts.
“We needed this desperately,” Lawton said. “All of the coaches really dislike Delaware, so it was a statement game.”
The win prevented Stony Brook from slipping to 1-6, which it had not done since 2001, the program’s third season in Division I.
“We came out with a mission after Fordham because we did not represent Stony Brook correctly,” Priore said. “We prepared real hard for Rhode Island and Towson and unfortunately were close, but didn’t get it. They came out this week feeling good about having a home game and prepared correctly, so I’m just proud of them. Credit goes to the boys on the field, 100%.”
Fresh off the stunning upset, Stony Brook remains home next week with the struggling Richmond Spiders (2-4, 0-3 CAA) on tap next Saturday, Oct. 23 at 3:30 p.m. in the season’s annual homecoming game.