Redshirt junior running back Ty Son Lawton during a game against Richmond on Oct. 23. Lawton currently leads all CAA running backs in yards, touchdowns and rush yards per game.  JOCELYN CRUZ/THE STATESMAN

Winners of two straight games, the Stony Brook football team has finally reached its bye week after eight long weeks of mostly disappointing football. The Seawolves are the last team in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) to receive a bye week, which comes just as the team showed signs of life in a 27-14 win against Richmond last week.

At 3-5 (2-3 CAA), the Seawolves are tied for eighth place, which is near where they were projected to finish in the CAA preseason poll. In their last two games, the Seawolves seemed to correct two problems that plagued them in their first six games: red-zone inefficiency and a negative turnover margin.

In 27 trips to the red zone, the Seawolves have come away with points 17 times for a rate of 62.9% — worse than all but one team in the CAA. The Seawolves had converted only 52.4% of their red zone trips prior to their last two games, in which they cashed in on all six of those opportunities.

After forcing five turnovers in their first two games, the Seawolves went four straight weeks without a takeaway. That contributed to a four-game losing streak, but the Seawolves snapped both skids by forcing two turnovers in their upset win over No. 14 Delaware on Oct. 16. The defense tripled that production with six takeaways in Stony Brook’s homecoming win over Richmond last Saturday.

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The offense has also taken better care of the ball, only committing two turnovers in their last two games compared to nine during their losing streak.

While it is likely too late for the Seawolves to contend for a postseason berth, this dramatic increase in efficiency is encouraging for this young Stony Brook squad. The Seawolves are only now establishing themselves as a coherent squad, but some players have excelled throughout the season.

The offensive MVP is easily redshirt junior running back Ty Son Lawton, who leads all CAA running backs in yards (787), touchdowns (8) and rush yards per game (98.4). Lawton accounts for 27.8% of the Seawolves’ total yards and 36.3% of their offensive touchdowns.

Lawton struggled against Richmond’s stout defensive line last Saturday, but that opened up the passing game for Stony Brook’s leading receiver, redshirt sophomore Shawn Harris Jr., who recorded 71 yards and a touchdown on three catches. Harris Jr. ranks sixth in the CAA in receiving yards (445), eighth in yards per game (55.6) and third in yards per catch (17.1).

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The defense has been led by redshirt freshman linebacker Tyler King, who was named one of 22 freshmen selected to the 2021 Jerry Rice Award watch list. The award is given annually to the national freshman of the year in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) following the regular season. King has earned recognition by leading the CAA with 69 total and 39 solo tackles, which respectively rank 15th and tied for 14th in the FCS.

King will have three more games to showcase his talents and solidify his case for the Rice Award, and the Seawolves will have a chance to finish with a .500 record against CAA opponents.

The last three games for Stony Brook are against ninth-place Maine, first-place Villanova, and last-place Albany. Maine, like Stony Brook, has won its previous two games, but they will travel this week to face a dangerous Rhode Island team before returning home to face the Seawolves. It won’t be easy, but the Seawolves have a solid opportunity to win their third straight game if they keep their red-zone success and win the turnover fight.

Unless the Seawolves have another upset victory in them, a road game against No. 4 Villanova will probably be too tall of a task for them. Regardless of the outcome of that game, the Seawolves should be able to close their season on a positive note at home against a winless Albany team, who the Seawolves stomped in the spring.

If the Seawolves keep up their efficient play and beat their equal or lesser opponents, they should be able to finish at 4-4 against CAA teams and potentially rank higher than their projected tenth place finish.

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