Winners of three straight following their 22-17 road win against Maine last weekend, the Stony Brook football team will travel to Philadelphia to face the No. 8 Villanova Wildcats at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13.
The Wildcats occupy second place in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 7-2 (5-1 CAA) record and are coming off a 35-0 road win against Elon. The Seawolves are 3-2 all-time against Villanova, but the Wildcats took a 16-13 victory in their matchup this spring.
In 2019, Stony Brook completed a 15-point fourth-quarter comeback to stun then-No. 5 Villanova 36-35 on a last-second field goal. In 2018, No. 13 Villanova led 21-0 in the second quarter, but Stony Brook again clawed all the way back for the eventual 29-27 shocker.
While the Wildcats are the Seawolves’ toughest CAA opponent this season and have a significant statistical advantage, they have proven to be beatable. Just two weeks ago, the Wildcats lost 31-18 at home to William & Mary.
“I’m not so sure that was Villanova’s hiccup as much as it was William & Mary playing really well,” Stony Brook head coach Chuck Priore said during Monday’s media teleconference about the Wildcats’ lone conference loss.
The turnover margin was a key component to that game, as William & Mary forced four turnovers while only committing one. All four of Villanova’s turnovers were interceptions from graduate quarterback Daniel Smith, who has thrown only eight interceptions all year.
Aside from that game, Smith has played exceptionally this season, ranking third in the CAA with 209.3 yards per game and second with a 143.3 efficiency rating. Last week against Elon, Smith completed a season-high 69.6% of his passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns while adding 45 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
“The number one thing is his decision-making,” Priore said about Smith. “He gets the ball out of his hand and he’s very accurate. He seems to know where people are and he’s athletic enough to hurt you in that part of the game as well.”
While Smith rarely makes many mistakes, the Seawolves have created 11 takeaways in their last three games. Redshirt senior defensive back Randy Pringle has become a significant playmaker, recording three interceptions and a fumble recovery during the win streak. Pringle and the rest of the defense will need to continue to create chaos for the Seawolves to have a chance at an upset.
The Seawolves have found some offensive success recently, but they will be challenged with a stingy Villanova defense. The Wildcats allow only 88.3 rush yards per game, which ranks second in the CAA.
“They have the ability to play in press coverage on the outside and put nine guys in the run game,” Priore said. “As a result, they’re minimizing the opportunities to run the football and they’re not given the big plays up. They mix up enough of their blitzes. They are in their run fits correctly in the run game.”
If redshirt junior running back Ty Son Lawton is bottled up, the Seawolves will have a hard time putting points on the board, as they have averaged only 174.3 pass yards in their last three games, while Villanova has allowed 173.3 pass yards per game this season.
The Seawolves have finally found success in the kicking game, with redshirt sophomore kicker Angelo Guglielmello converting all five of his field goal attempts in his last two games after going 0-for-3 in his first seven games. Guglielmello’s involvement has been a big part of Stony Brook’s recent success, and the Seawolves will need to take all the points they can get against the Wildcats.
The Wildcats present several challenges, and while an upset is not likely, it is not impossible. The Seawolves have been playing their best football of the season during their three-game win streak and they will need to be even better to leave Pennsylvania with another win.