TODAY'S PAPER

Stony Brook stumbles in regular-season finale

ALBANY -- For a moment, everything was right for the Stony Brook football team.

And then it wasn’t.

Things went horribly wrong for the Seawolves in the waning seconds of their Colonial Athletic Association regular season finale with the University at Albany.

A joyus celebration turned quickly to a bitter defeat as the Great Danes miraculously came out with a 25-23 win over Stony...

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ALBANY -- For a moment, everything was right for the Stony Brook football team.

And then it wasn’t.

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Things went horribly wrong for the Seawolves in the waning seconds of their Colonial Athletic Association regular season finale with the University at Albany.

A joyus celebration turned quickly to a bitter defeat as the Great Danes miraculously came out with a 25-23 win over Stony Brook in front of 2,483 at Casey Stadium. The loss leaves Stony Brook with a 7-4 overall record and 5-3 in the CAA.

A victory Saturday would have all but assured the Seawolves one of the 24 spots in the FCS playoffs. Now, Stony Brook’s players and coaches will have to sweat out the selection show, which will be shown Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

“My theory on all of that is that it has nothing to do with me,” said Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore. “The selection committee will make the best decision they want to make for FCS football. If they put us in, we will go out there and compete and win games. If they choose not, then they felt another team was more deserving.”

Four teams from the CAA have been selected to participate in the postseason tournament the last three years. Last season, Stony Brook got in and won a game (59-29 over Lehigh) but the Seahawks were also 9-2. This year, SBU is one of three teams in the league with overall 7-4 records.

Maine (8-3), the CAA regular season champ, has an automatic bid to the playoffs. James Madison, at 8-3, is a lock. That leaves the Seawolves, Delaware and Towson with 7-4 records. Stony Brook, which started the day ranked 10th in the country, lost to Towson (52-28) and beat Delaware (17-3). Towson beat Delaware (40-36) during the regular season.

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“It’s like Russian Roulette,” Priore said. “They are gonna take who they want to take. I am not going to worry about it to be honest with you. I have no control over it.”

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“I do,” Albany coach Greg Gattuso said when asked if he thought Stony Brook should get a playoff bid. “They are a real good football team. I have been in that 7-4 spot before and know what it feels like. When you go 7-4 in our league, you should go to the playoffs.”

The Danes replaced what looked like a sure loss with a stunning victory when senior kicker Ethan Stark made a 48-yard field goal as time ran out. Albany needed some luck on it, too as the ball landed on top of the crossbar of the goal post but carried over. Game over.

It seemed impossible that the game would even reach that point after the Seawolves made some magic of their own when a 41-yard Hail Mary pass from quarterback Joe Carbone landed in the arms of wide receiver Julius Wingate, who had wiggled free in the right side of the end zone. That gave Stony Brook a 23-22 lead with 17 seconds left.

After the play, the Seawolves were penalized 15 yards when Tyrone Wheatley was flagged for taking his helmet off during a celebration. That would prove costly as the penalty was assessed on the kickoff that Priore chose to squib kick.

Albany’s AJ Mistler returned the kick 18 yards to the Stony Brook 42, and after freshman quarterback Jeff Undercuffler completed a pass to Karl Mofer, the Danes had the ball on the 31. Following an Albany timeout, Stark, who had earlier made a 43-yard field goal and missed from 41 and also failed on an extra point, made his final boot in an Albany uniform.

It wasn’t pretty, but it counted just the same. The win snapped a six-game losing streak for Albany and returned the Golden Apple, the trophy the two teams play for every year, to the Capital Region. The Danes finish the year with a 3-8 overall record and 1-7 in the CAA.

Despite the devasting loss, Priore was upbeat. His players? Not so much. The Stony Brook sports information department said players would not be made available to the media.

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Of his decision to squib kick Priore said: “They already had 15 yards on us (from the penalty) and we did not want a return to give them good field position. It was a judgement call. My call, no one else’s. If the kid had bobbled it or it got by him, we are heroes.”

Priore said if his team had not been penalized, he would not have squib kicked.

As for the penalty on Wheatley, Priore’s take was a shrug.

“I honestly don’t know,” he said. “No one gave me an explanation. I will say this: when emotions hit, is it a rule? I am pretty sure it’s a rule you can’t take your helmet off on the field. That being said, it’s not the kid’s fault. What do you do when you celebrate? You want to be free. You want to be excited. I am not going to blame the kid.”