Stony Brook's Miguel Maysonet turned in the kind of explosive performance that has become almost routine as he pursues the Walter Payton Award, given to the outstanding player in the Football Championship Subdivision, and the Seawolves' defense made plenty of big plays in a 41-10 victory over Gardner-Webb Saturday afternoon at LaValle Stadium.
Maysonet gained 169 yards on 19 carries to become the first player in Big South history to top the 4,000-yard career rushing mark, pushing his total to 4,051. He scored two touchdowns -- a tackle-breaking 52-yard run and a 75-yard kickoff return to begin the second half -- as the Seawolves improved to 7-1 and 3-0 in conference play against the Bulldogs (1-6, 0-2).
Latest college sports stories
Asked after the game if he thinks his teammates have come to expect a highlight-reel game every week, Maysonet laughed and said: "I hope not. I just do what I can to help us succeed."
Marcus Coker added 62 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Kyle Essington completed 11 of 17 passes for 142 yards and touchdowns of 30 and 27 yards to Kevin Norrell, who totaled 111 yards on his seven catches.
But many of the game's most important plays came from a defense that contained Bulldogs quarterback Lucas Beatty, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 157 yards but was intercepted by safety Dominick Reyes and sacked six times. Defensive end Junior Solice, coming off shoulder surgery, saw his first extensive action, making a team-high 11/2 sacks, and Reyes had two of SBU's 13 tackles for losses, including a big fourth-down stop late in the third quarter.
"We played well on first down and got them in a lot of second-and-long situations," SBU coach Chuck Priore said. "Then you're allowed to attack. We needed more pressure on the quarterback than we had at Coastal Carolina , so we ran a few different things."
Stony Brook built a 10-0 lead with a career-best 48-yard field goal by Wes Skiffington and Maysonet's 52-yard run on third-and-2 against a G-W defense stacked in the box. "The play was designed to go outside," said Maysonet, who stepped out of one tackle and stiff-armed two more defenders down the left sideline. "Someone fell off their block, and I had to go outside. I kept it wider."
The Bulldogs cut it to 10-3, then recovered a muffed short kickoff at Stony Brook's 21. But Reyes jumped on a Beatty pass and returned it 18 yards, leading to another Skiffington field goal of 45 yards for a 13-3 halftime lead.
"That's from film study, and I had a feeling," Reyes said of the interception. "I knew they were going to run that [crossing] route."
Gardner-Webb tried the short kickoff again to start the second half, trying to keep it away from Maysonet, but he was ready. "I noticed they were kicking short, and I saw the kicker approach it the same way," he said. "I jumped and came up to catch it, and the sideline was open."
The Bulldogs quickly scored on a 47-yard run by J.J. Hubbard to cut the deficit to 20-10, but Essington responded with a 30-yard TD pass to Norrell for a 27-10 lead. Gardner-Webb had one last chance to keep it close, but on fourth-and-4 at Stony Brook's 26, Reyes strung out a pitch to Hubbard and nailed him for a 3-yard loss. The Seawolves then tacked on two more TDs.
"Dom is our quarterback on defense," Priore said. "He runs the show."
Maysonet may be the star, but the Seawolves displayed a great supporting cast.