Stony Brook quarterback Michael Coulter had to smile when asked about his 48-yard completion to Matt Brevi on a post route that set up his 5-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Gush in the second quarter of a 27-9 conference-opening win over VMI today.
"Before the game, coach showed me a film clip of that defense and told me the post route would be open," Coulter said. "It happened like he thought it would."
Brevi split the Keydets' two safeties and was wide-open down the middle when Coulter laid it into his hands. Brevi had three or four drops in the game, but he held on to this one and totaled five catches for 79 yards. Gush caught nine balls for 115 yards and his TD.
Explaining what happened on that play, head coach Chuck Priore said he was going over film at 2 p.m. about 90 minutes before gametime when he suddenly saw something in VMI's defense that left it vulnerable. Poking fun at himself, Priore said, "For 10 days, we scouted them, and I missed it until I was looking at film today. I told Michael, 'When we call this play, if they are in this defense, the post is going to be open.' But they still had to get the snap, make the pass and make the catch. There's a lot that goes into it."
That wasn't the only good coaching move by Stony Brook's staff today. Special teams coach Joe Tricario had a punt block on when VMI's Marc Ray muffed a snap in his end zone. Rich Vitale recovered for a Stony Brook touchdown.
Defensive coordinator Jim Gush (yes, father of wide receiver Jordan) had his defense primed to stop the Keydets' running game, but on their first drive, quarterback Cameron Jones hit nine of 10 short passes as they moved 63 yards before settling for a field goal. Gush had the safeties in the box to stop the run, but he adjusted to provide more help for the cornerbacks and was successful in containing VMI's passing except for one blown coverage that resulted in an 80-yard scoring pass from Eric Kordenbrock to Mario Scott to make it a 20-9 game.
Describing the adjustments Gush made after the opening drive, safety Arin West said, "In the next few series, we blitzed more and the defensive line got pressure on the quarterback. We didn't want to give up the big play. We mixed it up and got pressure, and their quarterback had to check it down [use short passes]."
On offense, Coulter had his most efficient game of the season, completing 14 of 19 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown. Four of his five incompletions were drops. He came into the game with eight interceptions through the first four games, so, Priore and his staff used the bye week before today's game to reassess their approach with the quarterback.
"We made changes to help him with more play-action passes," Priore said. "He's real good at play-action and getting the ball out of his hand quickly. We got to a comfort level with him."
Throw in the dominating performance of defensive end Jonas Rousseau, who had 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss, and it was a solid all-around game by the Seawolves to open Big South play. They are a better team than their 2-3 record indicates, and their win over the Keydets should provide a needed confidence boost as they try to win the conference title and an automatic berth in the FCS playoffs.