After dropping its home opener, the Stony Brook football team will hit the road to attempt to capture its first win of the season under the Friday night lights.
The Seawolves (0-1, 0-1 CAA) were roughed up in their first game of their 2023 campaign on Thursday, falling to the No. 19/21 Delaware Blue Hens 37-13. They will look to bounce back when they travel to Kingston, R.I. to take on the No. 22/23 Rhode Island Rams (0-1) this Friday at 7 p.m. Rhode Island comes into the contest after losing its season opener 42-35 to Georgia State in nonconference play.
Despite the loss in week one, offense was not an issue for the Rams. Their 35 points scored were the fourth most in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) during week one, and the team’s 520 yards ranked second in the conference. Last year, Rhode Island ranked fourth and fifth in the CAA in scoring and total offense, respectively.
The Rams’ offense is powered by an effective passing game with quarterback Kasim Hill at the helm. Last week, Hill completed 24 of his 40 passes for 408 yards and four touchdowns. Last season, he averaged 235.3 passing yards per game and threw for 19 touchdowns.
Head coach Chuck Priore spoke highly of Hill’s play and progress from year to year.
“He’s really improved from day one until today,” Priore said during a press conference on Monday. “He’s an elite quarterback right now. I think if you have an elite quarterback, you’re going to be in every game and have a chance.”
Along with reliable quarterback play, Rhode Island has a dangerous receiving core, as three out of the CAA’s four leading receivers belong to it. On just two receptions, Rhode Island wide receiver Marquis Buchanan picked up 101 yards and a touchdown in his NCAA debut.
Rhode Island head coach Jim Fleming is thrilled to see Buchanan finding success on the field after redshirting last season.
“We’ve been waiting for that,” Fleming said. “It was a long freshman year for him last year. He’s in the rotation, but once he got his hands on the rock and he did what he was able to do, it’s what we expected when we signed the kid.”
Stony Brook’s defense will certainly have its work cut out for it. After struggling against the pass last year, the Seawolves’ secondary did not fare well to start the new season. The unit allowed the most passing yards (414) and scrimmage yards (559) in the CAA last week. However, they did make a lot of splash plays, forcing four takeaways (three picks and one fumble) and collecting four sacks.
Two Seawolves on the defensive side of the ball to keep an eye out for are free safety Nick Chimienti and outside linebacker Anthony Ferrelli. Chimienti is coming off a performance in which he had two interceptions, while Ferrelli recorded a sack and recovered a fumble. Both started in place of injured players, as outside linebacker A.J. Roberts and safety Cory Gross Jr. were sidelined against Delaware.
Unlike the Rams, Stony Brook’s passing game struggled mightily in its opening contest. Quarterback Casey Case had a rough debut, completing just 14 of his 40 passes for 163 yards with three picks sprinkled in.
As Case looks to improve, he may do so by utilizing wide receiver Jayce Freeman more frequently. Though the two had a few moments of miscommunication in their first game together, they showed some positive flashes. Freeman led the team with five catches for 62 yards.
Given Rhode Island’s defensive struggles from week one, Stony Brook’s offense may have a chance to break out. On top of giving up 42 points in their first game, the Rams come into the matchup with the second-worst run defense in the conference after surrendering 231 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Georgia State.
The Seawolves’ run-first approach will look to exploit those same issues in Rhode Island’s defensive front. Despite leaving Thursday’s game on crutches and being seen with a walking boot, running back Roland Dempster seems to have avoided the worst. Priore said Dempster should be able to play on Saturday. In his first game since 2021, Dempster rushed for 50 yards on 10 carries and scored Stony Brook’s only touchdown.
One positive did come out of the injury for the Seawolves, as it gave running back Johnny Martin a chance to showcase himself. The transfer picked up 63 yards on just 8 carries, which is good for an average of 7.9 yards per carry. Running back Ross Tallarico also made the most of his limited chances, rushing for 45 yards on four carries.
Priore intends to make use of all of his backs as the season progresses.
“If you look at it, Johnny became our lead guy in the third quarter and Ross is Mr. Consistency; he does everything well,” Priore said. “We’ll be playing a lot of backs when the game is over and I think that will benefit us at the end of the season.”
Coming off a hard-fought loss in nonconference action, Fleming is amped up to square off with a CAA rival once again. He expects a hard-nosed, physical affair against a Stony Brook team that has played Rhode Island tough over the years. Though they dropped their last two head-to-head matchups with the Rams, the Seawolves have defeated their foe seven times in nine tries since 2013.
“The grind, right now, is the CAA … starting with Stony Brook,” Fleming said. “They’re going to be a very angry group. We’ve had knock-down, drag-outs with them in the past and I fully expect that same kind of thing. Chuck will have them ready. We’ve got respect for that program, we have got to be hitting on all cylinders.”