By land, it is 2,232 miles to Bozeman, Mont. Stony Brook will not be traveling there on foot for next week's FCS second-round playoff game against Montana State, but if it were, Saturday's soundly administered 20-10 defeat of Villanova certainly made it look possible.
Galloping, barreling, hotfooting, Stony Brook reeled off 58 of its 64 offensive plays on the ground, barely allowing Villanova to see the ball in the first and third quarters. Escorted by the usually anonymous but indispensable offensive linemen, alternating backs Miguel Maysonet and Marcus Coker had rushing totals of 160 and 107 yards on a total of 54 carries.
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That starting quarterback Kyle Essington was sidelined by a deep thigh bruise didn't make much difference, ultimately. Neither a hand-me-down quarterback -- junior college transfer Lyle Negron tried only six passes and completed three for 37 yards -- nor howling, bitter winds were going to keep Stony Brook (10-2) from its appointed rounds.
Stony Brook's first offensive possession painted the day's picture. Twelve minutes and 43 seconds long, 21 plays (19 on the ground), it covered 98 yards and culminated in Maysonet's 1-yard touchdown burst. In fact, after Negron badly missed on a short pass only six plays into the possession, Stony Brook stayed on the ground for its next 18 snaps and 33 of its next 34.
"That's the team we are," Maysonet said. "We like to run the ball. I don't even know how long was. It was long, though, and we got the score at the end of it. And the more we pound the ball, the more they get soft."
Behind tackles Michael Bamiro and Scott Hernandez, center Mike Lisi and guards Cody Precht and Fernando Diaz, the 230-pound Coker's repeated shots at Villanova's defensive line were like water eroding rock, and the wall seemed to open large cracks when Maysonet took his turns. All of his linemen, coach Chuck Priore said, can do bench presses with 400 pounds and squats with 600.
Coker had back-to-back gains of 12 and 14 yards in that first drive, and it wasn't long before Maysonet was sprung for a 47-yarder -- made 15 yards longer by a facemask penalty -- that quickly led to Stony Brook's second touchdown, a 14-yard Maysonet trek with 3:13 to go in the half.
"I was just trying to do my job," Coker said. And the big fellows up front were enjoying themselves with the physical nature of the strategy. His favorite play, the 6-8, 345-pound Bamiro offered, is anything "as long as I can get my hands on somebody."
Villanova coach Andy Talley called Maysonet and Coker "a very difficult task for anybody to handle." Villanova senior linebacker Devon Bridges called them "easily one of the best combinations I've seen since I've been here. That's a tribute to those guys."
Field goals of 37 and 29 yards by Wes Skiffington gave Stony Brook a 20-3 lead with 13:33 left.
Villanova (8-4) might have caused more trouble had senior receiver Norman White not dropped a third-down pass near midfield that stalled the visitors' first drive. But once Stony Brook got its hands on the ball, the absence of Essington -- the nation's most efficient passer at the FCS level -- and the presence of strong winds ceased to matter.
The coaching staff did "take some things out of the plan" because of the conditions, Priore said, "but we run the ball in most situations, and to stay free, penalty-wise, that was crucial."
That, plus a crop of good defensive plays, including linebacker Christian Ricard's smothering of a fake Villanova punt, cornerback Davonte Anderson's two interceptions and a handful of stops by lineman Kevin Hauter.
So this Stony Brook playoff thing definitely has legs.
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