Another late-game miracle seemed to be brewing for the Stony Brook football team, but its luck ran out on the final play.
In their home finale, the Seawolves (2-8, 1-6 CAA) fell 21-17 to the Towson Tigers in a game that went down to the wire. In what was a field position battle for most of the afternoon, the game took a dramatic turn in the final three minutes.
With 9:52 remaining and the game tied at 14, Stony Brook got the ball back at midfield with a chance to take the lead. Quarterback Daron Bryden and running back Ross Tallarico drove the offense down to Towson’s seven-yard line before a delay of game penalty pushed them back to the 12. The Seawolves ran the ball two more times, setting up kicker Angelo Guglielmello for a go-ahead 25-yard field goal. The drive ate up over six minutes, giving Stony Brook a 17-14 lead with only 2:39 remaining.
Head coach Chuck Priore opted to chew the clock and settle for a field goal, rather than go for the end zone and risk an interception.
“We threw an interception in the first half. If not we would have been winning down there,” Priore said in a postgame press conference. “I was counting on giving them the ball with 2:30 and us winning by three points. Good decision or bad decision, I’ll live with the decision because it put us on top and played the percentages.”
For the second straight week, the defense failed to close the game out. After the ensuing kickoff, Towson found itself backed up to its own 13-yard line. Stony Brook’s defense had a chance to clinch a victory after forcing a fourth down and six. However, Towson quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome took off and ran for 27 yards to keep his team alive. After that, he completed four straight passes for 59 yards, setting Towson up at the goal line.
On second and goal from the three-yard line, running back Devin Matthews took a direct snap and rushed for the game-winning touchdown, putting Towson up 21-17.
“The game’s easier than we all think, but we have to execute and make those stops, obviously,” Priore said.
Despite only having 53 seconds left to work with, Stony Brook made a valiant effort to pull off another comeback. Bryden found wide receiver Khalil Newton for 31 yards to Towson’s 35-yard line. Bryden then scrambled for 10 more yards and threw an 18-yard completion to wide receiver Shawn Harris Jr.
Stony Brook had the ball on first-and-goal from the seven-yard line with no timeouts and 16 seconds left. Momentum quickly flipped when Towson defensive end Oly Okombi sacked Bryden. The Seawolves were forced to spike the ball with one second remaining.
On the game’s final play, Bryden nearly connected with Harris Jr. in the end zone, but Towson cornerback Robert Javier forced a drop to secure the Tigers’ win. Despite the unfortunate play, Bryden has not lost any confidence in Harris Jr. as a pass-catcher.
“Wish we could’ve caught it,” Bryden said. “I still think Shawn is a great receiver. I don’t think that play defines him at all. He’s the guy; he makes a lot of big catches.”
The drop in the end zone spoiled a solid performance from Harris Jr., who had the best statistical game of his career. He racked up a season-high six catches for a career-best 135 yards. In the first quarter, he scored his first touchdown of the year on a career-long 70-yard catch and run after breaking a tackle.
In his final home game as an NCAA football player, Newton had a good day as well. He caught three passes for 69 yards and his team-leading fourth touchdown reception of the year. That is the most by a Seawolf in a single season since wideout Jean Constant scored five back in 2019.
“Before the game, I came in thinking a lot,” Newton said. “Immediately, I had to realize I had to take care of this moment we had right here because it’s bigger than anything. It’s bittersweet, but I’m happy to be here with my team.”
Bryden had the best game of his young career on Saturday. The redshirt freshman was up and down, completing just 18 of his 35 passes. However, he threw for a career-high 273 yards and two touchdowns. Despite the increase in production, he also threw a costly pick inside the 10-yard line right before halftime that hurt the Seawolves’ chances of winning.
Bryden’s 273 passing yards were the most in a single game by a Seawolf since quarterback Tyquell Fields threw for 320 against Villanova on Oct. 26, 2019.
“It’s probably why we picked him as a starter in September,” Priore said. “I’m happy how he reacted after throwing the interception in the first half. He did some things on this last drive … that I think are important for a young quarterback to understand that you can still win. You don’t have to make the play every time.”
Statistically, Saturday’s game was a fair fight. The contest saw 15 punts exchanged between the two teams; seven from Stony Brook and eight from Towson. Towson narrowly outgained Stony Brook 377-373. They were both horrible on third down, too. Stony Brook converted on just four of its 14 opportunities, while Towson went 3-for-14.
The Tigers won the game with their performance in the red zone. Offensively, they scored a touchdown in both trips. Defensively, they held Stony Brook without a touchdown in three chances.
After suffering their eighth loss this year, the Seawolves have entered uncharted territory. Priore had previously never lost more than seven games in a season during his NCAA head coaching career. Stony Brook has not lost eight games in a season since 2000, when the team went 2-8 under former head coach Sam Kornhauser. As an NCAA team, the program has only lost eight games in a season twice; the other time coming in 1990 when they were the Division III Stony Brook Patriots.
The Seawolves now turn their attention to the Monmouth Hawks, who they will play next Saturday to end their 2022 season. The teams have not met since Priore’s first season in 2006, when they were conference rivals in the Northeastern Conference. Monmouth is currently 4-6 overall and 2-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). The Hawks were blown out by No. 15/17 Delaware on Saturday 49-17.