Two minutes and 30 seconds remained on the clock as the Stony Brook defense needed to prevent the Maine Black Bears from driving 56 yards to score the potential game-winning touchdown.
One play was all that was required to ensure that would not happen.
In the midst of a campaign that already earned him a spot on the Jerry Rice Award watch list, redshirt freshman linebacker Tyler King continued his heroics with a game-sealing interception, the first of his career. Maine’s redshirt freshman quarterback Derek Robertson scrambled to avoid a sack on the drive’s opening play, but his desperation pass was snatched away in the middle of the field by the Seawolves’ top tackler.
“I saw him starting to roll out,” King said in a postgame press conference. “Our D-line forced him out, so I just shuffled over the boundary. Someone got a hit on him and forced an errant throw and I was just able to make the play.”
In a game where Stony Brook (4-5, 3-3 CAA) dominated early and led by 16, the team needed its defense to halt a Maine (4-5, 3-4 CAA) comeback attempt for a 22-17 road victory over at Alfond Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 6.
Since losing five of their first six games, the Seawolves have now won three straight, with this victory snapping Maine’s own three-game win streak.
“Our kids just kept on fighting and believing,” head coach Chuck Priore said about how the team overcame a difficult season start. “Good character kids, good senior leadership push the right buttons and it just proves to you the margin of winning and losing is very close.”
Coming off a bye, Stony Brook controlled the ball in the first quarter of the game, holding time of possession for over 12 minutes and stymying the Maine offense to the tune of -11 total offensive yards. Late in the first, redshirt junior defensive back Isaiah Givens smacked down a lateral pass to the ground for a fumble recovered at the Black Bears’ 18-yard line.
The early takeaway set up redshirt junior running back Ty Son Lawton, the conference’s leading rusher, for his ninth score of the season. While it may have only been recorded as a 9-yard touchdown, Lawton travelled much farther in distance to reach the end zone. The play called for a sweep to the far right side, but there was no room to run upfield and he reversed course, where Lawton found no defenders on the left side and ran untouched for the score.
Despite owning every aspect of the game early, it felt as if the Seawolves, leading 16-0, should have been up by even more. Stony Brook reached Maine territory on its first five drives and had to settle for field goals on three red zone trips. In position to make it a three-score game, graduate quarterback Tyquell Fields heaved a 30-yard pass into the end zone which was easily picked off for a touchback.
Immediately, the Black Bears gained 69 yards on a carry by sophomore running back Freddie Brock, who was targeted again for an 11-yard touchdown that put Maine on the board in the second quarter. A 36-yard field goal midway through the third quarter suddenly turned the Seawolves’ early dominance into a one-possession game.
When it appeared that Stony Brook’s offense had run out of momentum, the defense came up with big plays to stop Maine’s comeback attempt.
Redshirt senior defensive back Randy Pringle, fresh off a two-interception game against Richmond, came up with his third career pick in the end zone when the Black Bears looked as if they could take the lead.
A subsequent 4th-and-1 stop gave Stony Brook the ball back at Maine’s 37-yard line. Lawton needed two touches to widen the advantage again — first, a long run down the sideline, then, a wide-open catch for his first collegiate receiving touchdown. While a successful two-point conversion would have put the Seawolves up 14, Priore opted for the PAT, which redshirt sophomore kicker Angelo Guglielmello missed to keep the score at 22-10.
King’s decisive interception was Stony Brook’s third takeaway of the game.
“By the second half, we were a little bit sluggish,” Lawton said. “We had to get the momentum back in our favor and I believe we did that by the fourth quarter.”
Maine graduate wide receiver Andre Miller, who torched the Seawolves for 133 yards and three touchdowns on eight receptions in the two teams’ last meeting, did not play on Saturday with a hamstring injury. The Black Bears’ leading receiver was sophomore Montigo Moss, Randy Moss’ youngest son, who had three receptions for 48 yards.
Lawton, whose 96 yards on 26 carries extended his lead over Delaware’s Dejoun Lee for the conference running title, had an additional 70-yard score in the fourth quarter called back for holding.
“The energy these last three weeks has been really good and definitely helping us keep momentum and when we make a play, it’s really making it more fun,” King said. “We need to carry it throughout these next two games and hopefully get two more Ws.”
In order to make it four in a row, Stony Brook will need to upset the No. 10 Villanova Wildcats on the road next Saturday, Nov. 13 at 1:00 p.m. It wouldn’t be the first time the Seawolves have done so in recent memory, though.