BUFFALO - A football program can't lose leaders and performers the likes of former Stony Brook stars Miguel Maysonet, Michael Bamiro, Kyle Essington, Kevin Norrell and Dominick Reyes from last season's 10-3 team and not expect to undergo a difficult transformation. But the 2013 Seawolves took the first big step toward establishing a new identity with an updated cast during an epic five-overtime battle Saturday afternoon at UB Stadium.
Quarterback Lyle Negron, who figured to be the biggest question mark starting this season, led the Seawolves back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and gave them a chance to win at the end of the fourth overtime. But kicker Nick Ferrara's potential winning field goal from 37 yards sailed wide left.
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Ferrara rebounded with a 25-yard field goal to give Stony Brook a three-point lead in the fifth overtime, but when it was their turn, the Football Bowl Subdivision Bulls got a 6-yard touchdown run from Anthone Taylor to pull out a 26-23 victory over their in-state rivals from the lower Football Championship Subdivision.
In the emotional aftermath of a gut-wrenching game lasting more than four hours, Seawolves coach Chuck Priore said: "I am very disappointed we lost this game, but we showed great character. This game is in the bank, and it will not be discussed after this . . . You play a five-overtime game, different things happen, and you don't dwell on it."
Priore said the No. 17 Seawolves (1-1) probably won't even review the game video before heading to Villanova to play the Colonial Athletic Association favorite. The video would reveal a stout Stony Brook defense that held the Bulls (1-2) to 133 yards rushing and sacked quarterback Joe Licata three times while limiting him to 193 yards passing, 27-for-48, with one touchdown and one interception. Receiver Alex Neutz caught 10 balls but for only 43 yards.
"If you stop the run, they have to be one-dimensional," said Stony Brook safety Christian Ricard, who had eight tackles and broke up three passes.
The Bulls, whose first two losses came at No. 4 Ohio State and No. 22 Baylor, took a 10-0 third-quarter lead on a 1-yard run by Taylor that was set up when Stony Brook's Ivan May muffed a punt at his own 27. Ferrara, who missed two earlier field-goal attempts of 40 and 28 yards, then capped a 12-play, 81-yard Seawolves drive with a 23-yard field goal to make it a 10-3 game with 11:07 left in regulation.
After Buffalo kicker Patrick Clarke missed a 34-yard field-goal attempt, Negron fashioned a 15-play drive covering 80 yards, hitting Malcolm Eugene for the tying five-yard TD with 29 seconds left to force overtime. Negron completed six of eight passes for 41 yards and ran twice for 18 yards on the drive.
"We've got to finish," said Negron, who completed 25 of 48 passes for 300 yards and two TDs to go with two interceptions. "We were driving the ball all game."
The tying TD was a run-pass option to Eugene, who caught nine passes for 110 yards and also made a great grab of a 10-yard TD pass to the left corner to tie the second overtime at 20. Speaking of the comeback, Eugene said: "We just stuck to the game plan . . . My number was called, and I had to make plays."
In the third overtime, Negron threw an interception. Buffalo then had a first down at the Stony Brook 13, but Licata fumbled an attempted handoff that Junior Solice recovered for SBU. Winston Longdon then picked off Licata in the fourth OT before Ferrara missed his potential game-winner from 37 yards.
"I'm proud of the effort, but losing is not acceptable," Priore said. "Almosts, should'ves and could'ves are not something we can rely on. We have to rely on our ability to move forward and not think about the past."
The Seawolves might want to forget the outcome, but they'll feel good about the team they see in the mirror entering CAA play.