The Stony Brook football team may not have been able to spoil New Hampshire’s homecoming, but it certainly made it interesting.
The Seawolves (0-5, 0-4 CAA) have now lost their first five games to start the 2022 season, while the Wildcats have taken sole possession of first place in the conference. Stony Brook played its closest game of the year, falling 24-14. However, several trick plays and bright spots have given Stony Brook something to look forward to down the line.
After a scoreless first quarter of traded punts and incompletions, the Seawolves drew first blood in an unorthodox way to cap off a 99-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Daron Bryden completed a 40-yard bomb to wide receiver Shawn Harris Jr. to help give the offense some breathing room. Then, after taking a pitch to the right, running back Ross Tallarico threw a pass deep down the field as he was hit. The ball was underthrown for wide receiver Khalil Newton, but fellow wideout Tyler Devera was there to catch the pass and sprint into the end zone for the touchdown. Tallarico was a high school quarterback, and head coach Chuck Priore used that to his advantage to give Stony Brook the 7-0 lead.
After that, the Wildcats offense woke up. New Hampshire quarterback Max Brosmer responded to Stony Brook’s score with a 42-yard completion to tight end Kyle Lepkowski on the first play of the next drive. Three plays later, Brosmer found wide receiver Joey Corcoran for another 28 yards to set the offense up inside the 10. Stony Brook’s defense did not break and held New Hampshire to a field goal, cutting the score to 7-3.
The Wildcats defense forced a three-and-out on the next series, setting up Brosmer and company at their own 31. Brosmer drove them 69 yards in eight plays, culminating in a 9-yard touchdown run by running back Dylan Laube. New Hampshire took the lead and never looked back from it.
The second half is where it got really interesting for Stony Brook. Priore made a quarterback switch at halftime after Bryden only went 2-of-6 passing for 55 yards. He did not turn to the other two quarterbacks with playing experience, but rather to the true freshman Charlie McKee. Priore called the substitution a “gut feeling” in his postgame press conference.
McKee was a highly-touted high school prospect coming out of Oceanside High School on Long Island. He impressed in his NCAA debut, as he elevated the level of his teammates’ play and kept Stony Brook alive until the end.
New Hampshire extended its lead to 17-7 on its opening drive in the third quarter when Brosmer found wide receiver D.J. Linkins in the end zone for his second touchdown pass of the day. Brosmer underthrew his lob, but Linkins reached over the back of free safety Randy Pringle to secure the touchdown.
After that, McKee and Tallarico became the story of the game. Stony Brook had some fun with McKee at the helm, as they ran a double-reverse pass that resulted in a 22-yard completion to wideout Delante Hellams Jr. Stony Brook drove to midfield, but was stopped short on a fourth down rush by defensive end Josiah Silver.
The Seawolves defense forced a three-and-out of their own and gave McKee the ball back with time to engineer a comeback. McKee drove them down the field to end the third quarter, but they were once again thwarted one yard short on a fourth down completion to Devera. Devera ate a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit from safety Max Oxendine. However, Stony Brook’s defense forced another quick punt and got the ball right back.
McKee finally made his first mistake at the Division I level when he threw an interception to defensive back Joe Eichman. Eichman returned the pick to Stony Brook’s 21-yard line, but linebacker Reidgee Dimanche forced a fumble from Laube on the very next play to get Stony Brook the ball back.
With new life, McKee engineered a 12-play, 76-yard drive culminating in a touchdown pass to Tallarico. It was McKee’s first-career touchdown pass, and the second receiving touchdown in as many games for Tallarico. The game was now 17-14 with 5:01 remaining.
Needing a score to put the game away, Brosmer went 4-for-4 passing with 74 yards and a touchdown on the ensuing drive, New Hampshire chewed the clock down to 2:21 as Brosmer finished his day 23-of-36 for 291 yards and three touchdowns.
McKee made another couple of nice throws, hitting both Devera and Hellams Jr. for consecutive 20-yard strikes. Ultimately, New Hampshire’s defense held tough and stalled the Seawolves’ offense to end the game.
McKee uplifted the offense in his debut. While playing in just the second half while trailing the whole time, McKee went 18-of-26 passing for 190 yards, one touchdown and one pick. Tallarico was a workhorse once again, but was bottled up for most of the game. He racked up 24 total touches for 90 scrimmage yards and another touchdown to accompany his 55-yard touchdown pass.
Stony Brook’s defense kept them in it while the offense was floundering. Dimanche led the way with eight tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. The defense made eight total tackles behind the line, making it a tough day at the office for Laube. However, the pass rush was not very good, generating only one sack on Brosmer.
Situationally, Stony Brook was once again outplayed. The offense only converted two of its 12 third down opportunities. They also turned the ball over on downs three times. The defense held New Hampshire to just 6-of-15 on third down but allowed three touchdowns in four red zone trips. Like they usually do, the Wildcats won the time of possession battle, having the ball for 33:34.
After William & Mary defeated Delaware 27-21, New Hampshire took sole possession of first place in the CAA. The Wildcats stand alone atop a conference that boasts No. 6 Delaware, No. 13/15 Villanova, No. 17/16 William & Mary, No. 18/14 Elon and No. 23 Rhode Island. Richmond is also ranked No. 23 in the Stats Perform Poll.
Despite the loss, Stony Brook has some things to look forward to next week when they take on No. 16 Fordham. McKee injected life into a lifeless offense, Tallarico continued to impress and running back Ty Son Lawton is expected to return at full strength next week.
“[Lawton] could not have played today,” Priore said in a postgame press conference. “My guess is, we should have him back next Saturday to join Ross [Tallarico].”
The Seawolves will look to continue to find positives for now and the future, as they try to salvage whatever they can of their 0-5 mess. With the way McKee showed out in the second half, perhaps they already have some answers.