Stony Brook put together its best offensive performance of the season, with former fourth-string running back James Kenner carrying 32 times for 136 yards and three touchdowns. But an injury-riddled Seawolves defense that has taken more lumps than Rocky Balboa couldn't hold off Richmond quarterback Michael Strauss, who threw for five touchdowns in a 39-31 victory over Stony Brook Saturday at LaValle Stadium.
Kenner, who topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the third consecutive game, scored on runs of 22, 1 and 2 yards, the last two of which were part of a run of 21 straight Seawolves points for a 28-18 lead with 7:03 left in the third quarter.
But it was all Strauss from there. He completed 28 of 38 passes for 360 yards and a phenomenal 196.7 passer rating. Ben Edwards had 13 catches for 150 yards and two TDs, and Stephen Barnette added seven catches for 115 yards and one score.
The Spiders (4-6, 2-4 Colonial Athletic Association) converted 12 of 15 third downs, including 11 by air and nine when they needed at least 5 yards. "I thought our kids, based on our availability of players, gave it their best shot," coach Chuck Priore said. "Unfortunately, we didn't have enough left in the tank at the end to make a difference."
The injury situation was so bad on defense that SBU (3-6, 1-5) knew it had to put points on the board, and responded with a season-high 31.
For the first time all year, Priore fed one running back the bulk of the carries because Tyler Fredericks and Jameel Poteat were out. Kenner repeatedly fought through holes between the tackles behind 285-pound center Mike Lisi or cut back to the right side off the blocks of 350-pound guard Arthur Doakes and 290-pound tackle Cody Precht.
"It was a big task, but I know Coach had enough trust in me to do that," Kenner said. "Every play, I was just trying to relax, gather as much breath as I could, read the defense before the snap and just try to make the best of every play that I had. Our offensive line always comes ready to play. When I see how the D-line is lined up, I kind of think it might go this way and I just react."
After Kenner scored his first TD on a 22-yard burst up the middle, Richmond drove 85 yards in 15 plays to score on a 7-yard pass from Strauss to Edwards. The Spiders converted a two-point pass from Edwards to Barnette for an 18-7 lead.
But Stony Brook scored on its next three possessions for a 28-18 lead. The last came after SBU tackled punter Joe Gulli at the 20, leading to a 19-yard scoring pass from Lyle Negron to tight end Will Tye. Negron was 8-for-16 for 113 yards with one tipped-ball interception.
But Strauss converted four more third downs and a second-and-13 on drives that ended with scoring passes of 42 yards to Edwards, 13 yards to Barnette and 6 yards to Rashad Ponder.
Stony Brook went into the game with three defenders starting in different positions than usual because of injuries and lost starting cornerback Winston Longden with a broken jaw on the first drive of the third quarter. That forced injured cornerback Ivan May -- who in Priore's estimation was 65 percent with a hip injury -- into the game so the Seawolves could preserve the eligibility of freshmen who are redshirting.
Priore paid tribute to Strauss but added: "We unfortunately couldn't do some of the things we wanted to do defensively due to injuries. We weren't able to play some of the nickel [defense] things we normally play on third down that we've been very successful with. To their credit, they took advantage of it."