Since running back Marcus Coker suffered a season-ending abdominal injury, the focus of Stony Brook's traditionally run-oriented attack has shifted, by necessity, to utilizing transfer wide receiver Malcolm Eugene as the go-to guy.
Towson coach Rob Ambrose made it clear that the No. 2 Tigers (4-0, 0-0 CAA) will give Eugene their full attention in the Seawolves' home opener at 6 p.m. Saturday at LaValle Stadium.
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"I could get really descriptive and just say, 'Wow,' " Ambrose said of Eugene. "He's an exceptional player, and he certainly is a big-time concern for our defense."
After transferring from Temple in the summer of 2012, Eugene sat out last season as a redshirt. But he's made an instant impact for the Seawolves (1-2, 1-1) with 25 catches for 362 yards and three touchdowns. He topped the 100-yard mark in the past two games, including 12 catches for 184 yards in a loss last week at Villanova.
This is a homecoming for Eugene, a native of Huntington Station who played for Glenn High School before attending Brooklyn's ASA College for two years and Temple for the 2011 season. SBU coach Chuck Priore had recruited him both times.
"I didn't have an opportunity at Temple, and I didn't want my last year to play football sitting on the sidelines," Eugene said. "Coach Priore has known me since I was in 11th grade and has been nothing but nice to me. So it was a no-brainer. As soon as he said he would take me, it was no question."
Eugene's return to Long Island has been a challenge in some ways. "There's a little pressure being close to home," he said. "It's bittersweet coming down [from FBS to FCS football] because of things people have to say. Like, 'What happened? I guess he wasn't good enough to play at that level.' I've heard that from friends, family, a lot of people."
On the other hand, the Towson game marks the first chance for his guardian, Ingrid Gordon, to see him play since junior college. "My mother will be here," Eugene said with some emotion. "I'm trying not to think about it. It's just special playing here in my first home game as a senior, my first game in front of this crowd, just playing in this atmosphere."
Eugene and the Seawolves' offense are facing an outstanding defense that shut down FBS Connecticut in a season-opening 33-18 win. Cornerbacks Jordan Love and Tye Smith were preseason all-CAA selections, and the Tigers already have 17 sacks and nine takeaways.
"This game is going to be a big statement to our identity as a team," Eugene said. "We need to come out and play fast, play physical and execute."