The hard part for Stony Brook's Seawolves was not knowing. Losing at Liberty the previous week cost them a shot at the Big South Conference's automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and left them in limbo, hoping for one of 10 at-large bids in the 20-team field announced Sunday.
Coach Chuck Priore admitted he had "butterflies" two hours before the 1:30 p.m. selection show as if it were a game day. SBU athletic director Jim Fiore, who lobbied the NCAA selection committee during the week with help from the Big South Conference office, had no advance notice of the outcome.
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"I wish I did," Fiore said, "because the anxiety was through the roof."
When the selection show began on ESPNU, the Seawolves (9-2, 5-1 Big South) gathered in front of a big-screen TV in the academic center and watched as seven at-large teams started to fill in the bracket. Suddenly, the words "Stony Brook" appeared, prompting a deafening roar.
Not only were the Seawolves in the tournament, they were hosting a first-round game against Villanova (8-3, 6-2 Colonial Athletic Association) at 3 p.m. Saturday at LaValle Stadium. The winner advances to a second-round game at third-seeded Montana State (10-1, 7-1 Big Sky) on Dec. 1.
Priore had warned his players that they might have to handle disappointment, but his voice cracked with emotion as he congratulated them on a second straight FCS playoff berth. "That's just Game 12 on our schedule," he said. "That's our approach. We'll be ready to play. I guarantee you that."
Judging by his players' reaction, Game 12 should be emotional. Offensive tackle Michael Bamiro said the Liberty loss "was really hard to bear," but the players worked during the week to stay prepared.
"My heart was beating the entire time, even from this morning," Bamiro said. "I couldn't sleep; I couldn't stop thinking about this moment. It's gratifying now. It's an opportunity to make it to the national championship. That's what the goal has been since Day 1 in the summer."
Quarterback Kyle Essington didn't want his college career to end with the downer at Liberty, in which he was intercepted four times. Describing his emotions before the announcement, Essington said: "My mind was a scramble. I was just praying. When we heard our name, that's a moment I'll always remember. Playing at home is going to be a big advantage."
Running back Miguel Maysonet, who led the FCS in rushing (1,721 yards) and average per carry (7.72 yards), was third in touchdowns (21) and is a leading candidate for the Walter Payton Award, didn't want the last carry of his career to be a fumble.
"The pressure was on," he said. "When you finally see your name pop up, it was a relief. I'm just happy.
"Now we have to not kill ourselves [with mistakes]. We have to be focused and prepared to play this weekend. We got what we wanted to hear, and look at us now. We're excited to go work out."
Maysonet joined his teammates heading for the weight room. Suddenly, they have another game to play.