Against one of the worst teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), a disastrous first quarter pushed the Stony Brook football team’s season-opening losing streak to three games.
The Seawolves’ (0-3, 0-2 CAA) struggles continued on Saturday night in Arkansas, as they were blown out by the Arkansas State Red Wolves (1-2) 31-7. Stony Brook was outscored 17-0 by Arkansas State in the first quarter, putting it in too steep of an early hole to dig out of.
The first play of the game proved that the Seawolves’ defense were in for a long night, as Arkansas State running back Ja’Quez Cross started things with a 44-yard run to set his team up in enemy territory right out of the gate. Cross and fellow running back Zak Wallace powered an eight-play, 70-yard opening drive to set up a 22-yard field goal for Arkansas State kicker Dominic Zvada.
Following a Stony Brook three-and-out, the Red Wolves continued its ground-and-pound offensive attack on their ensuing drive. They marched down the field, allowing Wallace to bulldoze his way into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown to make it 10-0.
Like their prior offensive chance, the Seawolves punted after just three plays, placing the Red Wolves on their own 34-yard line. Arkansas State needed just two plays to expand its first-quarter lead to 17-0, as Cross found a gap and stormed down the right sideline for a 66-yard house call.
The Red Wolves finished the first quarter with a whopping 197 rushing yards on just 15 carries. From that point on, the game was over.
Head coach Chuck Priore was not pleased with the way his team performed on Saturday.
“I’m very disappointed with the outcome,” Priore said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “It’s frustrating to look at the final score and not be in it in the fourth quarter.”
With possession of the ball to start the second quarter, Stony Brook wasted a prime scoring chance. With the ball on Arkansas State’s 29-yard line, the Seawolves decided to go for it on fourth down and two. Quarterback Casey Case aired out a catchable pass that wide receiver Jayce Freeman could not hold onto in the end zone.
After the crucial drop, Stony Brook’s defense held strong to give its offense another opportunity. The team put together a solid drive to set up kicker Spencer Biscoe with a 35-yard field goal attempt, but he drilled the right upright.
With the score still 17-0 heading into the fourth quarter, the Seawolves had yet another great chance to cut their deficit that they failed to capitalize on. With 6:43 remaining in the third quarter, Case fired a perfect pass into the end zone that Freeman leapt up for and dropped.
Following the drop and a delay of game penalty on fourth down, Stony Brook turned to Biscoe once again to try and break the shutout, but he pushed the ball wide to the left. Biscoe went on to miss a third field goal later in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Cross and Arkansas State wide receiver Courtney Jackson each added touchdowns to expand the Red Wolves’ lead to 31-0. Later on, Case found wide receiver Rahmon Hart Jr. on a fade route in the end zone for his first touchdown as a Seawolf. However, it was too little, too late with the game being firmly out of reach.
Coming into the matchup, Stony Brook’s defense ranked sixth in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) against the run. Despite this, the unit struggled mightily against Arkansas State, allowing 345 yards on the ground. In a role reversal of sorts, Stony Brook only surrendered 140 yards through the air, which is the team’s best mark of the season.
Cross and Wallace were the stars of the game. Cross rushed for 164 yards and two touchdowns on 15 rushes, while Wallace added 57 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts.
Despite the lopsided loss, Case had his best collegiate start. He completed 21 of his 33 passes (63.6%) for 221 yards and a touchdown without throwing an interception. Case’s top target — wide receiver Anthony Johnson — had a tremendous game after picking up 54 yards last week. He totaled 127 yards on nine receptions.
Without top running backs Roland Dempster and Johnny Martin, the Seawolves relied on Ross Tallarico and Shakhi Carson to carry the load. The duo performed well, combining for 87 yards on 18 carries.
On the defensive side of the ball, middle linebacker Aidan Kaler shined. He totaled 10 tackles and a sack. Defensive tackle Dyshier Clary and defensive end Anthony Williams shared another sack, as well. Clary has now made a sack contribution in all three games, giving him two on the season.
Stony Brook will continue the search for its first win of the 2023 campaign next Saturday when it takes on a CAA opponent in the Richmond Spiders. Opening kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. The Spiders were ranked No. 16 in the 2023 Preseason Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll and ascended as high as No. 12 afterwards. They are yet to play a conference game this season and are 1-2 after beating Delaware State 38-6.