A second-quarter meltdown all but sealed the Stony Brook football team’s fate before halftime arrived.
Perhaps blinded by the Friday night lights, the Seawolves (0-2, 0-2 CAA) lost their first road game of the season to the No. 22/22 Rhode Island Rams (1-1, 1-0 CAA) 35-14. The second frame was the difference in the contest, as the Rams outscored Stony Brook 21-0 to run away with it.
The game started with a bad omen for the Seawolves when quarterback Casey Case threw an interception to Rhode Island safety Jordan Colbert on the opening drive. Rhode Island quarterback Kasim Hill turned the pick into points when he led his offense on an 11-play, 82-yard drive that he capped off with a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darius Savedge.
On the ensuing possession, Stony Brook responded immediately and marched right down the field to tie the game. Running back Johnny Martin — who started in place of an injured Roland Dempster — plunged right through the middle and rushed for a five-yard touchdown to tie things at 7-7.
After that, the sky fell on the Seawolves. On Rhode Island’s first possession of the second quarter, Hill hit wide receiver Kahtero Summers on a 70-yard catch-and-run to set up a four-yard rushing touchdown by running back Jaden Griffin. After that, Stony Brook went three and out, allowing Hill to put the Rams up by two scores with a 70-yard bomb down the middle of the field for a touchdown to wide receiver Marquis Buchanan.
With less than 90 seconds remaining in the first half, Case hit wide receiver Anthony Johnson on a bubble screen, but Rhode Island defensive tackle Jalen Brown poked the ball loose. With most of the players assuming the play was dead, Colbert picked up the fumble and ran it back 49 yards for the touchdown to make it 28-7 Rams.
After the game, head coach Chuck Priore said the explosive plays were his team’s undoing.
“We gave up two long passes that broke our back in a 7-7 tie,” Priore said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “You can’t allow a couple of easy touchdowns.”
Rhode Island went into cruise control in the second half, and neither team scored in the third quarter. Just under seven minutes into the fourth quarter, Rhode Island running back Ja’Den McKenzie rushed for an 18-yard touchdown to put Stony Brook behind 35-7.
On the ensuing drive, Case led the offense down the field and threw a 16-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to wide receiver Jayden Cook. The touchdown was the first of Case’s NCAA career.
The Seawolves struggled in just about every aspect of the game. The only statistical advantage that they held was in time of possession, but a lot of that had to do with the Rams’ quick scores. Rhode Island outgained them 414-248, picked up three more first downs, converted more third downs and had two takeaways on defense.
Priore said that as of now, Stony Brook is not where it needs to be.
“Right now, we’re not as good a football team as I’d like to be, but we’ve played against two very good football teams.”
Case struggled against Rhode Island, but was much better in his second-career start. He completed 17 of his 30 passes (56.7%), but only for 139 yards, one touchdown and a pick. Martin led the team with 42 yards rushing and his first touchdown with Stony Brook. Backup running backs Ross Tallarico and Shakhi Carson both shined off the bench, combining for 69 yards on 12 carries.
Cook and Johnson both caught five passes. Johnson led the team with 54 yards, while Cook scored the first receiving touchdown of his NCAA career.
The Seawolves’ pass rush was very active once again, as they recorded another four sacks. Defensive end Andy Nwaoko recorded the first two sacks of his Stony Brook career while defensive tackle Taylor Bolesta recorded his first of the season. Defensive tackle Dyshier Clary and defensive end Anthony Williams shared a half-sack each, giving the latter his first-career sack contribution.
Stony Brook’s rebuilt offensive line continued its strong start to the season, as well. Sack yardage notwithstanding, the team averaged over four yards per carry on offense. In pass protection, the line only surrendered one sack for the second consecutive week, giving them just two sacks allowed in 72 dropbacks.
Hill torched the Seawolves’ secondary, completing 17 of his 25 passes (68%) for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Summers led the Rams with 103 yards on just three catches, while Savedge led them with eight catches. Buchanan only caught one pass, but it was the aforementioned 70-yard house call.
Stony Brook will get another seven full days to prepare for its next opponent. This time, the team will be taking on a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent: the Arkansas State Red Wolves. The Red Wolves are currently 0-1 after losing 73-0 in viral fashion to Oklahoma on Saturday, Sept. 2. Opening kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Arkansas State will play Memphis tomorrow before the matchup with the Seawolves.