Cornerback Shamel Lazarus (16) makes a tackle while the rest of the defense follows. The Stony Brook football team will look to grab its first win of the year this Saturday at New Hampshire. CAMRON WANG/THE STATESMAN

Following a 27-10 defeat at the hands of William & Mary, the Stony Brook football team remains looking for its first win of the 2022 season. The Seawolves currently find themselves at the bottom of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) and are 0-4 for the first time since 2006.

Stony Brook (0-4, 0-3 CAA) heads on the road this Saturday to take on the University of New Hampshire Wildcats. The Wildcats are 3-2 overall but are 3-0 in conference play, tied for best in the CAA with Delaware. New Hampshire is coming off a 44-7 defeat at the hands of Western Michigan University, an FBS school. However, the Wildcats are still receiving votes in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 poll.

One of the keys to victory for the Seawolves is controlling the time of possession and keeping New Hampshire off the field. New Hampshire ranks in the bottom half of the CAA in total offense but still has averaged over 32 minutes of possession per game, which ranks third. Stony Brook ranks last in the conference, averaging fewer than 27 minutes of possession per game. The offense has to find ways to stay on the field, such as converting on third down, of which they are also dead last in the conference (22.6%). Luckily for Stony Brook, opponents are converting on 47.0% of their third down attempts against New Hampshire, revealing a susceptibility of the defense. 

The offense’s inability to stay on the field has directly impacted the defense all season long. In last week’s game, the Seawolves failed to convert on several key third downs in the third quarter that eventually led to William & Mary taking the lead. 

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“We had two opportunities in the third quarter where we missed two third downs at the 5 and 10-minute mark,” head coach Chuck Priore said during the weekly CAA coaches press conferences. “We could have prolonged those drives and kept our defense off the field.”

If Stony Brook is yet again unable to control the time of possession, New Hampshire will likely wear out the Stony Brook defense and run out the clock.

The battle in the trenches will be key for the Seawolves, too. Whichever team can win the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball will significantly increase their chances of winning. The Seawolves will need to generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. So far, they only have six sacks on the season, ranking 10th in the CAA. The opportunity to increase that total will present itself this weekend, as the Wildcat’s offensive line has struggled this season. They have allowed 12 sacks in total, ranking third-worst in the conference. However, New Hampshire’s pass rush has been stellar, as they co-lead the league in sacks along with William & Mary.

The Stony Brook run defense will need to continue its stout play to begin the season. Last week, the defense put up a valiant effort against the number one rushing offense in the CAA. The Seawolves led at halftime in that game, mostly due to the run defense’s efforts. The unit held the Tribe to just 51 yards on 22 rush attempts in the first half before the defense got worn out.    

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Stony Brook must make more trips to the red zone this week as well. New Hampshire boasts a solid defense, ranking fifth in the conference; yet, they have had immense struggles in the red zone. The Wildcats rank last in the CAA in red zone defense, allowing 14 touchdowns and 17 total scores in 18 trips. 

The problem for the Seawolves has been making it to the red zone, as they rank last in the conference with only six red zone appearances. Only two of those appearances have resulted in touchdowns, which is indicative of their three total offensive touchdowns scored all season. 

One player to watch for Stony Brook is running back Ross Tallarico. He broke out last week, racking up 108 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on 25 total touches. Tallarico is a walk-on playing out of necessity, as the top five running backs for Stony Brook are all injured. Tallarico was playing free safety when he first arrived, but transitioned to running back this past summer. The surprising emergence of Tallarico has provided them with the opportunity to return to the running style that the Stony Brook football program is known for. 

“Boy did he have a great day,” Priore said. “Really proud of him and his efforts. Really helped us maintain some success in the run game with the injuries we have.” 

Carthell Flowers-Lloyd’s great season continued last week, too. The outside linebacker ranks eighth in the CAA in tackles with 34 and second in tackles for loss with 10. Last week, he tallied a team-leading 13 tackles and a new career-high 4.0 tackles for loss. Flowers-Lloyd’s playmaking ability will remain key for Stony Brook if they wish to get the win on the road.

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Stony Brook’s defense will have to contain New Hampshire running back Dylan Laube on Saturday. Through the first five weeks of the season, Laube has totaled five touchdowns on the ground and one through the air. In Week 2, Laube ran for 202 yards and three touchdowns in a win against Albany. He is also the only player in the CAA to return a punt for a touchdown this season. Laube ranks first in all-purpose yards in the CAA. 

The Wildcats also boast a two-headed monster at defensive end in Dylan Ruiz and Josiah Silver. Ruiz and Silver have been wreaking havoc in the backfield all year long. The two are tied for the second-most sacks in the CAA with 4.5 each. The mere presence of the two has opened up opportunities for other Wildcats to get to the quarterback.

A victory over the Wildcats could be the catalyst that the Stony Brook football team needs. If not, this season could shape up to be one of the worst and most disappointing seasons in program history.

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Matt Howlin is an assistant sports editor of The Statesman. He is a junior journalism major at Stony Brook University. He previously served as the campus news editor for The Compass Newspaper at Suffolk County Community College. Following graduation, Matt plans to follow his dream of becoming a sports journalist. He hails from Coram, N.Y. and is an avid Yankees, Giants, Islanders and Lakers fan.

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