It took eight games, but just as they did last year, Stony Brook's Seawolves have hit their stride in Big South Conference play. After misfiring for much of the first quarter and falling behind by a touchdown in the second quarter, SBU put together five touchdown drives in a span of 14:22 extending into the third quarter on their way to a 41-21 victory over Charleston Southern this afternoon at LaValle Stadium.
The victory evened the Seawolves' record at 4-4 and, more importantly, kept them undefeated in Big South play and tied for first with Liberty at 3-0. Last week at Coastal Carolina, Stony Brook jumped out to a 31-0 lead and held on for a 38-28 win. This week, the script was reversed as the Wolves scored on a 32-yard run by Miguel Maysonet and an 8-yard run by Maysonet in the final 5:40 of the first half to take a 13-7 lead.
In the third quarter, the Seawolves took the second-half kickoff and drove 66 yards to score on a 1-yard run by Brock Jackolski, who broke a 39-yard run earlier in the drive. After a Charleston fumble gave them the ball at the Buccaneers' 41, it took the Wolves three plays to get into the end zone on a 9-yard run by Maysonet. SBU's defense forced another three-and-out series by the Bucs, and a 29-yard run by Jackolski set up a 35-yard screen pass from quarterback Michael Coulter to Maysonet that he took for a TD and a 34-7 lead with 6:18 left in the third quarter.
Coulter later added a 25-yard scoring pass to Jordan Gush in the fourth quarter as Stony Brook scored on its sixth straight possession. Coulter completed 9 of 11 passes for 145 yards and the two TDs. Jackolski rushed 16 times for 183 yards and returned three kickoffs for another 90 yards, and Maysonet carried 19 times for 158 yards, caught two passes for 37 yards and totaled a school record-tying four TDs.
Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore, who marked his 100th game as a college head coach, liked how his team bounced back from the early adversity. "We were able to turn the corner in the second quarter, and you could feel the momentum going into the tunnel," he said of the halftime emotion. "The first quarter last week [at Coastal Carolina] and the third quarter this week were pretty special. We got on a bit of a roll."
As impressive as the Seawolves' offense was, this kind of performance couldn't have happened without a defense that held Charleston Southern (2-6, 0-4 Big South) to 45 yards rushing and 273 overall. With Stony Brook still trailing, 7-6, because of a missed extra point, the defense came up big when Southern was driving and had a third-and-1 at the SBU 47. Freshman linebacker Jawara Dudley came up and stuffed DeMarcus Moon for a one-yard loss, forcing a punt.
"That was huge to have him step up and make that play," linebacker Craig Richardson said of Dudley. "That was a momentum-changer."
A good punt pinned SBU at its own 12-yard line, but the Seawolves moved to their 37, where it was third-and-3. They came out with three wide receivers right and a tight end split left, forcing the CSU secondary to leave the middle fairly open. Coulter handed to Jackolski on a draw play, and he carried 55 yards to the Bucs' 8.
"I was confident in the offensive line no matter what play we ran," Jackolski said. "But we practiced that play all week, and the O-line did it exactly the way we ran it in practice."
That set up the go-ahead TD, and after Stony Brook pushed its lead to 20-7 in the third quarter, the defense made another big play. With his receivers covered Charleston quarterback Andrew Trudnowski was forced to scramble and fumbled. Richardson said he saw Seawolves cornerback Al-Majid Hutchins fall on it and he pushed it under Hutchins to make sure no one else could get to it. Three plays later, Maysonet's 9-yard run made it 27-7.
Charleston Southern couldn't get anything going on its next drive, and one of the reasons was that Richardson spent much of the game in the Bucs' backfield. He totaled 10 tackles, including 2.5 for losses and was credited with the fumble recovery even though he said Hutchins really had it. Basically, it seemed like he knew what was coming most of the time.
"That goes back to a week of watching film," Richardson said. "I was able to sniff out some of their plays early."
After getting the ball back, the Seawolves quickly moved into Charleston territory on a 29-yard run by Jackolski. That led to the 35-yard screen to Maysonet. Coulter waited as long as he could before dumping the ball off and then paid for it by taking a big hit that flattened him.
"They were blitzing, and I tried to scoot through the blitz as fast as I could," Maysonet said. "He lofted it up."
That made it 34-7, and that was only Coulter's second pass of the second half in three scoring drives. The other was a 26-yarder to Gush for a first down on the previous drive. Priore said he didn't want to pass more than necessary going into the wind in the third quarter, but he didn't have to because the Seawolves could get the corner whenever they wanted to with the running game. Time after time, a receiver would crack down on the outside linebacker or defensive end to seal off the corner for the backs.
Thinking of one long run down the left sideline where wideout Matt Brevi basically pushed his man 15 yards downfield, Maysonet said, "Props to Matt Brevi. He did a great job of blocking on the corner."
Priore added, "Our receivers were awesome with their downfield blocking." Priore admitted his staff spotted a weakness in Charleston's defense and exploited it. "When they lined up, Mike [Coulter] put us in the right direction going away from their linebacker shift," Priore said. "We took advantage of something we saw and then executed."
Charleston Southern managed a couple of late scores when the game was out of reach, but the Buccaneers never did stop Stony Brook's offense. Not only did the Seawolves add Coulter's 25-yard TD pass to Gush, but they were driving at the end of the game to the Bucs' 17 before taking a knee at the final gun.
Two weeks ago, the Seawolves hit a low point when they lost to winless Lafayette on the road. But they have bounced back in splendid fashion with wins over Coastal Carolina and Charleston Southern and now face a road game next week at Presbyterian, then their final regular-season home game against Gardner-Webb before a likely showdown at Liberty.
All the Wolves have to do to ensure themselves of having a chance to win the Big South's automatic FCS postseason bid is win one of the next two games. Even if they were a game behind Liberty going into the finale, a win there would give them the postseason berth.
After the past two performances, it would appear the Seawolves are back on track for a collision at Liberty. "Absolutely," Jackolski said. "We're practicing at a high tempo and making a lot less mistakes. The whole team is coming together, and we're trying to forget the past."
The Seawolves' future is as bright as they want to make it.