Graduate defensive lineman Brandon Lopez in the game against the Delaware Blue Hens on Oct. 16. Lopez recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter and returned it to the Delaware 1-yard line. KAT PROCACCI/THE STATESMAN

It has happened.

The Stony Brook football team snapped its four-game losing streak on Saturday afternoon at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium by beating the No. 14-ranked Delaware Blue Hens 34-17. Stony Brook came into the game at 1-5 (0-3 CAA), losing their last two games by a touchdown each.

It seemed as if the Seawolves were just a couple of plays away from getting over the hump. In week seven, they made those couple of plays and then some to come out victorious for the first time since Sept. 11 against Colgate.

During their losing streak, the Seawolves had the same issues in each game. They had zero takeaways on defense, they could not throw the ball, they lost the turnover battle and the defense was bad situationally on third downs and red zone chances. Some of these issues in the Delaware game were the same, but others were different. Nobody can expect them to be perfect, and they were not. However, they did correct some of these previously-listed issues to help return to the win column

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The Seawolves did not have every statistical advantage over the Blue Hens. Delaware’s punting game pinned Stony Brook inside their own 20-yard line five times to win the field position battle, while Stony Brook only had one punt inside the 20. Delaware out-threw Stony Brook 199 to 133 and had three sacks to Stony Brook’s one. Still, these held no bearing on the end result.

Stony Brook’s special teams unit was much better on Saturday than in weeks past. Graduate punter Mitchell Wright did a good job flipping the field when called upon, averaging 45.6 yards per punt over seven punts. He booted three big ones over 50 yards to help set the defense up favorably. Late in the game, redshirt senior defensive back Randy Pringle recovered a muffed punt in the end zone for a touchdown. While redshirt sophomore kicker Angelo Guglielmello converted all four of his extra point attempts, a botched snap on one PAT ended without a kick attempt as Wright recovered the ball only to get immediately bulldozed.

It is no secret that graduate quarterback Tyquell Fields has not had a strong final season. His performance during the Seawolves’ losing streak was up-and-down, but mostly down. However, in what wound up being a reduced role, Fields performed better. He was only asked by head coach Chuck Priore to throw 18 passes, completing 13 of them (72.2%) for 133 yards and a touchdown. He also ran nine times, gained 38 yards and scored another touchdown on the ground. 

His touchdown pass was a beneficiary of a beautiful catch by redshirt senior wide receiver Khalil Newton, who made a diving catch with the ball on his back hip right at the goal line for a touchdown. Fields did lose a fumble in the third quarter on Stony Brook’s first drive of the second half, getting hit on an attempted keeper to halt a promising drive at Delaware’s 27-yard line.

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Priore has always made his money through his running game. One of the best-kept secrets in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) is redshirt junior running back Ty Son Lawton, who is having a fantastic season despite not getting a ton of recognition. His performance this season has been perfectly emblematic of the ideal Priore ground game offense, and he had the best performance of his career on Saturday to lead his team to victory.

Lawton got the game started off in the best possible way. A punt downed at the 1-yard line gave Stony Brook almost no hope for their opening possession of the game. On the offense’s first play from scrimmage, Lawton took a handoff from his own end zone to the other, running for an unbreakable record-breaking 99-yard touchdown. It was the longest rush and longest play from scrimmage in program history. 

The historic run quickly changed the momentum, something that Stony Brook never lost after that. Lawton ran for his third straight and fourth total 100-yard game on Saturday, putting up a monstrous 192 yards and two touchdowns on only 22 carries. He averaged 8.7 yards per carry and his two scores were his second straight multi-touchdown game, giving him a CAA-leading eight now on the season. He now has 736 yards rushing this season. He is on pace for 1,157 yards and 12 touchdowns in this 11-game season.

Lawton’s historic performance led to a mammoth overall rushing performance from Priore’s ground offense, which put up 251 net rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns as a team, averaging a whopping 5.7 yards per carry. On the other hand, Stony Brook’s run defense was stout, holding Delaware to only 119 yards despite running the ball 35 times, an average of a measly 3.4 yards per carry. 

“I think we did really well besides the two or three big plays they had that we busted on,” redshirt senior linebacker Reidgee Dimanche said about stopping Hens graduate running back Dejoun Lee in a postgame press conference. “We played sound, made our tackles, held him up and had a good job containing him.”

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The 251-119 blowout in the rushing yards category allowed Stony Brook to win the time of possession battle 31:40 to 28:20. The Seawolves gained one more first down than the Blue Hens as well and had a higher third down conversion rate, further helping them hold the ball more.

Stony Brook’s defense also showed up, allowing 318 total yards on the game and 4.9 yards per play. While the Seawolves’ interception drought grew to five games, the secondary held Delaware’s passing game to only 15-of-30 passing for the aforementioned 199 yards. The key fourth quarter strip sack obviously was monumental and was the first time the Seawolves’ defense created a fumble since New Hampshire. While last week’s blocked field goal was technically registered in the statistics book as a fumble, this week saw Stony Brook recover a real fumble in a key moment, with graduate defensive lineman Brandon Lopez taking it back to Delaware’s 1-yard line.

“The bottom line is Delaware was 4-for-15 on third down,” Priore said. “That had been a little bit of our Achilles’ heel coming into the game. We made the crucial third down stops, forced them to punt eight times and were able to play ball control.”

In the three weeks prior, Stony Brook’s defense gave up a 52% (26-for-50) conversion rate on third downs, but the Seawolves held Delaware to just 26.7%.

After all was said and done, Stony Brook corrected its biggest flaws and won a game for the first time in over a month. It was the Seawolves’ first home win since Sept. 21, 2019 against Fordham and their first conference win since beating Albany in the final game of last season. 

Stony Brook stuck to its guns, dominated the run game, won the turnover battle with only one giveaway while averaging 2.6 turnovers per game before Delaware and thwarted the opponent’s passing attack. Most importantly for the defense, they got off the field. 

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Playing at this same exact level might be unlikely given the Seawolves’ performances in their first six games, but they played their brand of football on Saturday and in doing so, took care of a ranked team. If this stunning upset allows them to play fundamental, situationally sound football for the final four contests of the 2021 season, we should be in for an exciting finish.

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