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LIU keeps it close early before being routed by Saint Francis (PA)

LIU quarterback Clay Beathard (4) is sacked by

LIU quarterback Clay Beathard (4) is sacked by St. Francis (PA) linebacker Jaylen Parks (45) and defensive lineman Todd Burger (59) on Oct. 19, 2019. Credit: Lee S. Weissman

This figured to be a season in which the losses kept stacking up into a tall pile. The LIU Sharks took a huge step forward from Division II to D-I, but they seemed to be getting closer to that first FCS win in recent weeks, losing by 10, then seven and then five.

But they took a step back against Saint Francis Saturday when they got blitzed, 30-0, with a crowd of 4,128 watching on Homecoming Day at Bethpage Federal Credit Union Stadium.  

“Absolutely a huge step back for our progression,” coach Bryan Collins said. “… This was a combined team effort in a 30-point loss on our part."  

The loss dropped LIU to 0-6 and 0-5 in the Northeast Conference. The Sharks went 30-4 over the previous three seasons and made two NCAA tournament appearances, including last year when they went on a 10-1 run. But that was in a different kind of college football world. 

“When you have a tradition of being a successful program … you kind of always think you’ve got a chance,” said Collins, now in his 22nd season. “But we did lose a big senior class last year. We have not really had a full recruiting season under our belt with Division I athletes. And then we’ve had some devastating injuries.

“And so we’re just not where we need to be right now.”

It takes time. They also have just three home games. But Chris Villarrial sees some talent here. The former two-time All-Pro offensive lineman with the Chicago Bears is in his ninth season as Saint Francis’ head coach. He doesn’t think the Sharks are going to be under water for long.

“When I came into this league as a head coach at Saint Francis, we didn’t have a lot of things,” Villarrial said. “So I can understand the growing pains. I can understand what they’re going through. I have a lot of respect for their head coach. I think he’s a tremendous coach. …

“It’s just that when you take that step up, it’s a playoff game every week, and you can get wore out if you’re not used to that process.”

Jason Brown threw for 247 yards and three scores and ran for 46 yards for the Red Flash (4-3, 2-1). They outgained the Sharks, 385-156. 

“We’ve just got to play better as a team in general,” said LIU redshirt freshman receiver Owen Glascoe, a Penn State transfer from Massapequa Park who had six catches for 60 yards, including two one-handed. “It’s no particular person’s fault. No pointing fingers.” 

Saint Francis took a 9-0 lead into the intermission, but the Sharks had some chances. 

There was a blocked field goal from 31 yards out. There was a first-and-10 at the Red Flash 31 that turned into a fourth-and-38.

Then there was a first-and-15 at Saint Francis’ 23 and nine seconds left in the half. Clay Beathard, who went 15-for-25 for 157 yards and was sacked four times, looked to pass, but he fumbled the ball away on one of those sacks.

“We’re not clicking on offense,” Collins said.

The defense surrendered a 98-yard drive that ended with Brown finding Terell Johnson for a 10-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Brown went long on Saint Francis’ next series and hit EJ Jenkins for a 79-yard score. Derrick Wiley then ran 2 yards to make it three TDs in a span of 5:51. 

Junior strong safety Jerome Brooks III said he thinks the Sharks “lose focus too much.”

“I don’t think we’re down,” said Brooks, a Stony Brook transfer from Central Islip. “I think after a loss like this, it’s definitely humbling. But we’re going to definitely still be motivated to come out next week (at Central Connecticut State) and try to get a win.” 

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