If you only look at Gardner-Webb’s 1-6 record, the Bulldogs might not have seemed like much of a threat to No. 10 Stony Brook. But G-W quarterback Lucas Beatty completed 84.4 percent of his passes and built an 18-point at Big South power Liberty before falling in a 42-35 shootout two weeks ago.
In that context, the Seawolves’ defensive performance in a 41-10 rout of the Bulldogs Saturday afternoon at LaValle Stadium was very impressive indeed. They had 13 tackles for losses, including six sacks of Beatty, who also threw an interception.
Coming into the game, Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore said, “If you ask me, ‘Do you want to give up points or do you want to give up yardage?’ We’ll give up yardage. We’ve kept the points down in every game, and that’s a successful defense. Stay away from the big plays.”
For the most part, that’s what Stony Brook did. Bulldogs running back J.J. Hubbard broke a 47-yard TD run and Beatty had one completion for 31 yards, but the end result was only 10 points because of all the big plays by SBU’s defense. And it came at a time when starting linebacker Reggie Francklin is out for two weeks with a sprained knee.
But his replacement, Grant Nakwaasah, led the Seawolves with nine tackles. Safety and defensive captain Dominick Reyes had eight tackles, including two for a loss, and an interception. Defensive linemen Jonathan Coats and Leston Simpson each had two tackles for a loss, including one sack apiece, and defensive end Junior Solice (pictured) topped Stony Brook with 1 ½ sacks, including one he split with rover back Dan Mulrooney that essentially stopped a Gardner-Webb threat just before halftime with an eight-yard loss to midfield.
“We had to keep up the pressure on him at all times,” said Solice, who saw his first extensive action this season after coming back from shoulder surgery. “Coach told us to keep going, never stop, keep the motor running. Our preparation was great, so, we kept going and having fun.”
Once Stony Brook extended its lead to 34-10, Solice teed off once more for a solo sack of Beatty back to his own 14-yard line. That forced a three-and-out series, and the Seawolves tacked on one last touchdown following the punt.
“We definitely brought a lot of pressure on him. He had happy feet running around. It had him on edge a little bit, and we took advantage of that and just kept coming.”
As pleased as he was with the performance, Priore said, “Being 7-1 is exciting, but it doesn’t get you anything at the end of the day.”
From here, the Seawolves are hoping to run the table in the Big South in their final three games Saturday at Presbyterian, home against VMI and then at Liberty on Nov. 10. Three straight wins would secure a fourth straight Big South title and a second straight automatic bid to the FCS playoffs.