Talk about the perfect storm. Stony Brook must try to contain the most prolific offense in the FCS when it faces a James Madison attack led by quarterback Vad Lee at noon Saturday in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and the Seawolves will be without star running back Stacey Bedell, who is out with a shoulder injury.
It's a bad combination of circumstances. Bedell, who is averaging 118.0 yards rushing per game, suffered the injury in a 21-0 loss at William & Mary last week, and coach Chuck Priore said his status is "week-to-week."
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Priore said the Seawolves (2-1, 1-1 Colonial Athletic Association) must control the ball on offense better than they did last week or they will face an uphill struggle against the No. 6-ranked Dukes (4-0, 1-0 CAA).
"Certainly, you want to have your best player, but that's what football is about," Priore said. "We've got three or four guys who are going to step up to the plate and play well, and I'm confident we'll be able to make up for it in different ways."
Freshman Isaiah White and sophomore Donald Liotine are likely to get the bulk of the rushing load. They have to buy time for the defense to catch its breath after chasing the top offense in the country.
James Madison ranks No. 1 in total offense with an average of 671.3 yards per game, No. 1 in rushing with 356.3 yards per game and No. 2 in scoring at 50.3 points per game.
Lee is No. 1 in total offense (424.5 yards), including 125.8 yards rushing to rank fifth. But the Dukes have two other running backs averaging more than 100 yards per game in Khalid Abdullah (103.0) and Cardon Johnson (100.3).
"They have a very great offense," said Tyrice Beverette, who plays the hybrid rover back position in the Seawolves' defense. "They are putting up points. They're doing what no one else in college is doing. We've got to get into film and key on what we have to do to win this game."
The sophomore defender replaced graduated Christian Ricard at rover and has done an excellent job early in the season.
"It's been a very big challenge because when you lose Christian Ricard, he was a big part of our defense last season," Beverette said. "He was an All-American and he made everybody right. So I just had to fill his shoes, which is a hard task. I'm just trying to help us win."
Stony Brook ranks fourth nationally in scoring defense (12.0 points) and ninth in total defense (279.7 yards). The Seawolves came close to upsetting JMU a year ago before losing, 27-24, on Lee's 76-yard touchdown pass in the final quarter.
"They're going to get their yards," Priore said. "They will make mistakes, but they're a good team. You've got to stop their points."