Adam Peck |
For at least one afternoon, Rhode Island looked every bit like a team picked to finish last in the Colonial Athletics Association.
Coming into LaValle Stadium on Saturday evening, the Rams were ranked in both national FCS Top 25 polls, having far exceeded preseason expectations with impressive wins over Delaware, Harvard, and Brown. But Stony Brook made easy work of their conference foes, cruising to a 52-14 win to improve to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference.
Those 52 points are the most-ever scored by Stony Brook in a CAA contest.
The Seawolves got the ball rolling early on Saturday, jumping out to a 7-0 lead on their second drive. Running back Jordan Gowins, who was back after missing last week’s game, got the first score game with a one-yard rushing touchdown.
SBU got into the red zone after a flurry of rushes from Gowins, and passes from quarterback Joe Carbone, who completed a 32-yard pass to wide receiver Julius Wingate to get into scoring position.
In addition to their first quarter offensive output, Stony Brook was led by its suffocating defense.
Rhode Island came in averaging 37 points per game, the third best mark in the conference behind James Madison and the same Towson team that hung 52 points on the Seawolves less than a month ago.
Like Towson, Rhode Island relies heavily on the passing game. But their starting quarterback JaJuan Lawson missed his third straight start after sustaining an injury against Harvard in late September, so it fell to Vito Priore to take snaps under center. Stony Brook’s defensive line applied heavy pressure all night, and Priore managed just 7 completions on 19 attempts for 62 yards, a far cry from the 276 passing yards they averaged coming in.
Much of that success is owed to the Seawolves secondary as well, which kept Rams receivers well-covered downfield. In particular, they completely shut down Aaron Parker, Rhode Island’s top receiver. The conference’s third-best wide receiver in receiving yards per game was kept off the stat sheet entirely on Saturday by Synceir Malone and the rest of the Stony Brook secondary.
Instead, it was the Stony Brook offense that looked more lethal on the field Saturday. Back at full strength in the backfield, the duo of Donnie Liotine and Jordan Gowins — dubbed the Long Island Express — combined for 39 rushes, 236 yards, and three touchdowns.
One notable addition to the Stony Brook offense was quarterback Tyquell Fields, the redshirt sophomore whose appearances this season have mostly come late in the second half of games in which the outcomes were already a foregone conclusion.
Against Rhode Island, Stony Brook sent out Fields in the middle of a lengthy first quarter drive to take the snap on a 3rd and 4 near midfield. He kept the ball and dashed for 12 yards and a first down, extending the drive and setting up an Alex Lucansky 35 yard field goal to make it 10-0.
Fields made two more appearances in the first half as well, once on another 3rd and short from near midfield and again on a third and goal. Both times Fields made the most of his opportunity, including his second career touchdown pass to Cal Daniels to push the Seawolves lead to 24-0 with under 5 minutes to play in the first half.
Before Stony Brook could make it to the locker room though, Rhode Island strung together a 10-play, 75 yard drive capped off with a touchdown to make it a 24-7 game.
But once again, the Stony Brook defense quickly dispelled any notion of a Rhode Island comeback.
Defensive lineman Casey Williams sacked Priore on the Rams’ first play from scrimmage in the second half, and two snaps later, CeQuan Jefferson intercepted a throw and returned it to the Rhode Island 25 yard line.
After five handoffs to Donnie Liotine, Stony Brook was in the endzone again to make it 31-7. Rhode Island threatened only once more the rest of the game, but after picking up a first down at the Stony Brook 14 yard line, Rhode Island turned the ball over on downs after failing to pick up a yard on 4th and 1.
“We thought that if we controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball we would keep their offensive off the field and we would put pressure on the quarterback,” said head coach Chuck Priore after the game. “We were able to accomplish that.”
what the win means
The win was significant in many ways for the Seawolves. It guarantees Stony Brook a winning record for the second straight season, and it puts them on the precipice of the FCS playoffs. Seven wins is the unofficial line of demarcation for consideration of an at-large bid to the postseason, and Stony Brook now sits at 6-2 with three games remaining.
The win also extends the Seawolves’ ownership of Rhode Island. The two teams have played every year since Stony Brook joined the CAA in 2013, and Stony Brook is now a perfect 6-0 in those games. The 52-14 final score also marks the largest margin of victory and the largest point total put up against a conference opponent or a team ranked inside the FCS Top 25.
“Rhode Island is a good football team, and sometimes it happens to you,” said Priore, likening their setback to his own squad’s ugly performance against Towson earlier this month. “It happened to us a few weeks ago. You get barraged and you can’t get out of your own way.”
For Stony Brook, the win gives them a ton of momentum and confidence heading into their toughest game of the season—a road trip to Harrisonburg, Virginia to take on a James Madison squad coming off a bye week.
The Dukes have dropped just one conference game in the past three seasons, and will likely be ranked inside the Top 3 when Stony Brook comes to town next weekend. The two programs last met in the second round of last year’s FCS playoffs, but the last time they faced each other in the regular season was in 2015.
Stony Brook will take on James Madison on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 3:30 p.m.
Top: Stony Brook running back Jordan Gowins rushing past Rhode Island defenders (Credit: Stony Brook Athletics)