BOZEMAN, Mont. -- When Stony Brook looks back on its 16-10 loss to Montana State in the second round of the FCS playoffs Saturday night at Bobcat Stadium, it will be hard not to think of it as the game it fumbled away. The litany of errors included three fumbles and numerous mental breakdowns.
When MSU's Rory Perez missed a 45-yard field-goal attempt with 1:41 left, it gave the Seawolves (10-3) one last gasp from their 27 with 1:41 left. But Kyle Essington, who came back from a thigh injury and played the whole game, threw an incompletion and was sacked twice. Essington fumbled on the last one, and it was recovered by defensive end Bill Daly to give third-seeded MSU (11-1) the win.
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"It's just the nature of the game," Essington said. "The defense knew we had to pass, and they could cover deep and rush."
The Bobcats contained running backs Miguel Maysonet (83 yards on 19 carries) and Marcus Coker (56 yards, 12 carries). Essington completed 10 of 19 passes for 122 yards and a TD but lost two fumbles. Montana State quarterback DeNarius McGhee rushed for 75 yards and passed for 208 yards and one touchdown with one interception.
"Montana State had one mistake, and we had a few more," Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore said, referring to the three-to-one turnover differential. "We played a solid game minus the turnovers . . . Two of our three turnovers came in . I rest my case."
Once Priore determined Essington was available, there was no alternating with backup Lyle Negron, who led the first-round win over Villanova. The Seawolves' first drive was similar to their opening 21-play, 98-yard TD drive against Villanova -- minus the touchdown, or any points at all. This time a 15-play, 77-yard push ended when Wes Skiffington's 35-yard field-goal attempt was wide left.
"That was a great drive," Priore said. "That drive was what we do, but we didn't finish."
That was the first of several first-half disappointments for SBU. The next came 1:35 later when safety Dominick Reyes left Bobcats wide receiver Tanner Bleskin running wide open on a 69-yard touchdown pass from McGhee for a 7-0 lead. "I just got beat," Reyes said. "I was playing a different technique for a short route, and he went deep."
The Seawolves almost got it back on the first play after the kickoff. Wideout Kevin Norrell was wide-open down the middle but had to dive to make a spectacular 46-yard reception on an errant throw by Essington. A holding penalty stalled the drive, and the Seawolves settled for Skiffington's 38-yard field goal and a 7-3 deficit.
On the next Stony Brook possession, with a first down at the Bobcats' 21, Maysonet had the ball torn from his grip by nose tackle Craig Ashworth, who recovered at the 23. A 48-yard field goal by Perez gave MSU a 10-3 halftime lead.
"They're a good defense," said a downcast Maysonet, who finished the season with 1,964 yards. "I just got stripped."
In the third quarter, the Bobcats drove to a first down at the 1, but the Seawolves held and forced a 21-yard field goal for a 13-3 Montana State cushion.
When Davonte Anderson intercepted McGhee's pass at the SBU 12 and returned it 28 yards, it put the Seawolves back in the game. Essington found Norrell for a 4-yard touchdown pass that cut the deficit to 13-10 with 11:53 left. But the Bobcats added a 45-yard field goal for a 16-10 lead with 9:04 remaining.
The Seawolves still had a chance, but the tough Bobcats defense never let them mount another serious scoring threat.
"We had a chip on our shoulder because we're undersized," Daly said, "and we wanted to show we weren't going to get pushed around. It's a dream play for a defensive lineman to end the game on a sack."