Talk about your Thanksgiving leftovers, they don't get much more satisfying than Brock Jackolski's 55-yard touchdown reception in Stony Brook's 31-28 FCS first-round playoff victory over Albany Saturday afternoon at LaValle Stadium. Both sides viewed that as the key play in the Seawolves' comeback from an 18-point third quarter deficit.
It was a play Stony Brook had run in the past, but it wasn't in the gameplan until Seawolves head football coach Chuck Priore sat down and began doodling on a paper towel after the team's Thanksgiving dinner. "Plays like that are the things we design to put the ball in his hands," Priore said. "I doodle stuff on Thursday nights and Friday mornings. It's my hobby."
Normally, you don't throw something into the gameplan that you haven't practiced, but Priore said, "Because it was Brock, we knew we could do it. Brock had to sell it to get the safety to bite, and he did what he had to do."
At the time, Stony Brook still was trailing, 28-17, and had the ball on second-and-12 at its own 45-yard line following an interception by Donald Porter that was Albany's first turnover of the game. Just 49 seconds after Porter's pick, the Seawolves had cut the lead to 28-24 to get back in the game with 1:16 left in the third quarter.
Stony Brook quarterback Kyle Essington pump-faked by design to make Albany's defenders think it was going to be a medium-range pass over the middle. They came up, and Jackolski was gone, running wide-open when the ball settled in his arms down the left sideline.
"That was the play that got us a bit," Great Danes defensive end Eddie Delaney of Holtsville said. "The pump-fake got us. They're a good football team."
After another three-and-out by Albany, Stony Brook drove 80 yards for the go-ahead 11-yard run by Jackolski on his third TD of the game. The Great Danes nearly pulled it out at the end, but quarterback Dan Di Lella's pass from the Stony Brook 3-yard line was intercepted in the end zone by Dominick Reyes after Porter tipped it.
Stony Brook's victory was the first for the Big South Conference in the FCS playoffs. "It's a young conference, and we're getting an opportunity to be recognized at a national level," Priore said. "I got texts from every head coach in the conference with congratulations."
Now, the Seawolves move to the second round against No. 1 ranked Sam Houston State (11-0) on Saturday at 3 p.m. (ET) in Huntsville, Texas. Albany coach Bob Ford, who actually coached Priore with the Great Danes from 1978-82, said he told his former player: "I'm not sure whether I won or he won since he's got to play Sam Houston."
Albany running back Drew Smith seemed to think the Seawolves will do just fine. "Stony Brook is a great team," Smith said. "I haven't been hit like that in a while. They'll give Sam Houston problems."
It's a long trip to hostile territory to play the only remaining undefeated team in the Football Championship Subdivision, but you can believe Priore will take his chances and see if he can doodle some surprises for the Bearkats.