It will be running game vs. running game as Stony Brook visits Army
Somehow it figures that Army would have the best foot soldiers in college football. Despite their 0-3 record, the Cadets own the No. 1 rushing offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision, averaging 399.0 yards per game with a pair of 100-yard rushers in each of its three outings.
So it will be strength against strength when Stony Brook (3-1) brings a rushing attack that ranks fourth at the Football Championship Subdivision level with an average of 327.8 yards to its first-ever meeting with Army at noon Saturday at picturesque Michie Stadium.
This marks the Seawolves' fifth game in three seasons against an FBS opponent, and their chances for their first win depend on containing running backs Raymond Maples (140.0 rushing yards per game) and Larry Dixon (112.0) and quarterback Trent Steelman, who is nursing a left rib injury. Steelman practiced Thursday and will be a game-time decision.
"There's a half-dozen triple-option teams in the country," Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore said. "It's a huge advantage. The reality is that every team has three or four days to prepare for something they don't see again on their schedule."
Army has an undersized offensive line that averages 252 pounds, and starting center Ryan Powis has been ruled out with a rib injury. But Priore said the Cadets use cut-blocking techniques and their athleticism to make it work. They also don't hesitate to go for it on fourth down, converting on six of 13 attempts, and have controlled the ball longer than every opponent.
In its last outing against an FBS opponent, Stony Brook gave up 214 yards rushing in a 28-17 loss at Syracuse, but the Seawolves won't have to worry as much about the passing game at Army as it did against the Orange.
"It's going to be tough," defensive end Jonathan Coats said of stopping the triple-option. "They're going to come off the ball hard and low. It's definitely different from what we've seen, but we're still going to play physical and come off the ball."
The Seawolves' run defense has come up big in tough spots this season, but it could be a long day against Maples and Dixon. "They're aggressive runners," Coats said. "They get downhill fast. As hard of runners as they are, we're just as aggressive."
Army's weakness is a defense that allowed an average of 44 points to San Diego State, Northern Illinois and Wake Forest, which means Stony Brook running backs Miguel Maysonet (145.0 yards) and Marcus Coker (70.8) might have another big game.
After coming close at Syracuse, Coats said the Seawolves are fired up for another FBS opponent.
"It definitely is a motivation," Coats said. "I look at it like they're no different from any other team. They're guys just like us. Just go out and have fun, and see what the final score is on the scoreboard."