BOZEMAN, Mont. -- If Stony Brook plans to contend for the Football Championship Subdivision national title, backup quarterback Lyle Negron must play a major role. Negron is listed as the starter for the Seawolves' second-round matchup with third-seeded Montana State Saturday night at 7 (ET) at Bobcat Stadium, but starter Kyle Essington, who has a painful thigh contusion, is likely to see spot duty.
FCS passing efficiency leader Essington did not dress for the 20-10 first-round win over Villanova but took some first-team snaps Wednesday and Thursday. "I wanted to conserve and make sure I didn't hurt it more," he said earlier this week. "I'm still working through it, trying to get through some of the bootleg and rolling out and throwing the ball on the run, which is a little more difficult than some of the shotgun stuff. One of my fortes is being mobile. I need to be able to scramble, but I feel like you can still manage the game being limited. We'll see."
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Negron did an excellent job against Villanova but threw only six times, completing three for 37 yards, because Miguel Maysonet (160 yards) and Marcus Coker (107 yards) were successful running the ball. But Montana State (10-1) has the seventh-ranked rush defense in FCS and a high-scoring attack led by quarterback DeNarius McGhee. So the passing game and receiver Kevin Norrell should be more important for SBU (10-2) this week.
"It felt good to play against Villanova," said Negron, who redshirted last season and played sparingly this season. "I haven't played in almost two years. That first game got all the jitters out from getting hit. The game was real fast at the beginning, but it slowed down by the end."
The key for any Seawolves quarterback is taking advantage of opportunities in the play-action passing game. "We had a whole passing game ready to go," Negron said of the Villanova game. "But once Coach saw they couldn't stop the running game, he just had me control the passing game from there."
Montana State officials expect a crowd approaching 16,000 in 17,777-seat Bobcat Stadium, and the forecast calls for temperatures in the 40s and dropping into the 30s with the possibility of rain. Essington plans to ride a stationary bike and use heat pads to keep warm if he gets the chance to rotate with Negron.
"Lyle has shown amazing improvement," Essington said. "He's definitely stepped up from a leadership standpoint and mechanics and consistency. This team believes in him, and if we have to rotate, I'm all for it. I just want to help the team. If they can use me, then I'm ready to go."
Of course, if Maysonet and Coker perform as well as they did against Villanova, it will relieve pressure on the quarterback situation. Coach Chuck Priore noted that Football Bowl Subdivision Syracuse held Connecticut to minus-6 yards and Pitt to 27 yards but allowed Stony Brook to rush for 217 yards.
"We don't worry about who they are and what their statistics are," Priore said of the Bobcats. "We just know we have to execute our part of the game to physically control the line of scrimmage. It's about us."