The Stony Brook football team defending a pass in the end zone against Rhode Island Sept. 1. The Seawolves could not get anything going on offense in their season opener. TIM GIORLANDO/ THE STATESMAN

It’s rarely a good day when the offense scores as many touchdowns as the defense.

The Stony Brook football team opened its 2022 season at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on Thursday night against the No. 22 Rhode Island Rams. The Seawolves fell 35-14 after Rhode Island ran away with the game in the second half.

The game was competitive through the first two-and-a-half quarters, as it was a defensive battle until late in the third quarter. Rhode Island quarterback Kasim Hill led his team on an 87-yard drive and capped it off with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Ed Lee to put the Rams in front. They took a 21-14 lead into the fourth quarter, and Stony Brook could not muster up an answer. 

The Rams opened up the fourth quarter with another scoring drive, as Hill rushed for a 10-yard touchdown right up the middle to put Rhode Island up by 14. An interception by Rhode Island linebacker Evan Stewart off of a deflection set up a third unanswered Ram touchdown, putting the game out of reach for Stony Brook. 

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“You can put a lot of energy into your opening day, and I think there’s a host of people that are disappointed,” head coach Chuck Priore said in a post game press conference. 

The first half of the game was an interesting one for Stony Brook. They drew first blood on the defense’s opening drive when outside linebacker Carthell Flowers-Lloyd returned a Hill fumble for a touchdown. Flowers-Lloyd forced the fumble himself on a sack, and the touchdown was the first of his six-year NCAA career. 

“I felt like I was in high school with the ball in my hand,” Flowers-Lloyd said.

It only went downhill for the Seawolves after that.

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On offense, Priore rotated quarterbacks throughout the game, but neither produced good results. Josh Zamot started the game for the Seawolves, while Daron Bryden swapped places on-and-off with him. Both quarterbacks threw costly interceptions to defensive back Jordan Jones in the second quarter. Zamot’s pick was returned for a touchdown to give Rhode Island a 14-7 lead. Priore decided to play Zamot for the entirety of the second half, but it did not get better for the Seawolves.

The Seawolves’ passing offense suffered a miserable night overall, as Zamot and Bryden combined to complete just eight of their 24 passes for just 83 yards and three picks. Despite a poor performance from the two of them, it was not all their fault. The Seawolves receivers dropped several catchable passes that stalled drives. The most notable one came on the first play of the second quarter, when wide receiver Shawn Harris Jr. dropped a perfect deep pass from Bryden.

The offensive line had several breakdowns in pass protection as well, which Priore pointed out in his press conference. 

“From my vantage point, I don’t think we protected them very well when the opportunities arose,” Priore said. 

It was Zamot’s first full game at the collegiate level; he had only played a couple of snaps through his first four years with the team. Despite the game not going his way, Zamot said that he felt confident and that he gained valuable playing experience.

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“I felt good,” Zamot said. “I had trust in my guys and they trusted me.”

Now entering their bye in week two, Priore said that the team will re-evaluate the quarterback situation. Despite that, Priore also said that he has not lost any confidence in his two quarterbacks.

“I’m confident in them,” Priore said. “I’m just as confident as I was yesterday.”

The Seawolves were able to get one good drive going on offense towards the end of the first half. The team pulled off an 11-play drive ending with a rushing touchdown by running back Ty Son Lawton. All 77 yards from that drive came via the running game, and it wound up being the offense’s only scoring drive. 

Another reason for Stony Brook’s poor offensive output was that Rhode Island stopped the run. The Seawolves rushed for 167 yards, but they only averaged 3.9 yards per carry as a team, and Zamot was the team’s leading rusher with 83 yards. Lawton was stuffed all night, rushing for only 46 yards on 20 carries. They never pulled off a big play: the longest run by a Stony Brook running back was only 12 yards. Lawton’s main backups, Roland Dempster and Seba Nekhet, were both out with lower-body injuries, leaving the Seawolves without two other big pieces of their run game.

“We didn’t get off any big plays that changed the field,” Priore said. “It needs to be better at every aspect.”

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Stony Brook’s defense was impressive for most of the game, allowing only seven points through the first 41 minutes. The pass defense was particularly good, as Hill only went 17-of-32 passing for 236 yards. However, as the game went on, the defense got weaker. Rhode Island had three pass plays of over 20 yards in the second half, helping them flip the field and take momentum away from Stony Brook. By the end of the game, short fields and long plays allowed Rhode Island to skew the stats and hurt the Seawolves defense. 

Looking ahead, Stony Brook will enter its aforementioned bye and get a 15-day break. Their next game will be on Saturday, Sept. 17, where they will travel to Amherst, Mass. to take on UMass. Opening kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., as the Seawolves will look to fix some of their errors and secure their first win of the year.

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