Stony Brook's Kyle Essington (15) releases the pass. (Sept. 24,...

Stony Brook's Kyle Essington (15) releases the pass. (Sept. 24, 2011) Credit: Alan J Schaefer

Losing a senior leader in quarterback Michael Coulter to a season-ending knee injury had the potential to be a crushing blow to a Stony Brook football team aiming to win its first outright Big South title. But if it had to happen, the transition from Coulter to Kyle Essington couldn't have come at a better time on the schedule for the Seawolves.

SBU had a bye week when Coulter made the decision to call it quits because of a torn ACL in his left knee, and that allowed Essington time to prepare for his starting debut, a 42-24 victory over Presbyterian in the team's Big South opener in which he passed for four touchdowns and ran for another. Now the Seawolves (2-3) have what figures to be a confidence-builder against 0-5 St. Anselm, a Division II school from New Hampshire, at 6 p.m. Saturday at LaValle Stadium.

"It was very good timing absolutely," coach Chuck Priore said of the quarterback change. "You don't want the injury, but this was the correct timing to allow Kyle to hone his game. I was pleased by his play against Presbyterian, but not surprised. The biggest question was how he would adjust to adversity, and when he had three straight incompletions and then went 5-for-5, he answered the question."

Naturally, Priore cautioned against overlooking St. Anselm, and he said the Seawolves responded with a good week of practice. But the fact is that the Hawks have allowed an average of 50.2 points this season and have one of the worst rushing defenses in the country, which is not a good thing against an SBU running game featuring Miguel Maysonet and Brock Jackolski, who have totaled 211.4 rushing yards per game this season.

"Our approach is to pay the correct respect," Priore said. "The stats are true, but games are weird. Who knows what might happen? I hope we get the opportunity to play some other kids and rest some guys."

A victory over the Hawks not only would put Stony Brook's record at .500 but would help build momentum for the rest of the Big South schedule. Another strong performance by Essington certainly would boost the Seawolves' confidence heading to VMI the following week.

"Kyle had a phenomenal week of practice leading up to the Presbyterian game," Priore said. "It was tough to find an incomplete pass in practice. He was really excited, and the rest of the kids saw that going in. He did a nice job."

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