Under the best of circumstances, Stony Brook's home football opener against No. 2 Towson (4-0, 0-0 CAA) on Saturday night at LaValle Stadium would be a major challenge. But after losing two key starters the previous week, the Seawolves (1-2, 1-1) now will face the Tigers without running back Jamie Williams and starting linebacker Grant Nakwaasah.
Williams suffered a rib injury in last week’s 35-6 loss at Villanova and will be out four weeks with the injury, according to coach Chuck Priore. After beginning the season second on the depth chart behind Marcus Coker, who was lost for the season with an abdominal injury before the Villanova game, Williams likely would have alternated with Jameel Poteat, who now is scheduled to start against Towson. Tyler Fredericks and James Kenner also will see action at running back.
Nakwaasah is the Seawolves’ third-leading tackler, but his transgressions at Villanova upset Priore. “He’s suspended for his actions Saturday during the game getting the two personal fouls,” Priore said. Asked the length of the suspension, Priore added, “At least this game. It’s open-ended.”
Priore’s decisive action took some resolve considering the high-powered offense his team will be facing, especially after losing starting cornerback Reuben Johnson for the season a week earlier with a knee injury. SBU’s other starting linebacker, Jawara Dudley, is nursing a high hamstring pull that caused him to be limited in practice, but he is expected to play.
Towson, which opened the season with a 33-18 road win against Connecticut, an FBS school, comes in averaging 41.5 points per game and 443.8 yards total offense. Quarterback Peter Athens is solid, but the heart of Towson’s offense is running back Terrance West, who is averaging 124.5 yards rushing per game.
“The key thing is the running back,” Priore said of West. “Their ability to run the football when they need to is what their team does well. They’re a good offensive team. It all revolves around his ability to run the football.”
Priore got at least one bit of good injury news this week. Wide receiver Adrian Coxson, who missed the Villanova game, returns to the lineup to complement leading receiver Malcolm Eugene and give quarterback Lyle Negron an extra target.
But the Seawolves need to run the ball much better than they did at Villanova, where Poteat finally came alive late in the second half. “He played well, broke a lot of tackles, got in a rhythm, made a couple of good runs,” Priore said of Poteat. “He pass-blocked his butt off and knocked people down, picked up all the blitzes and did a nice job.”
Of course, depth always is a concern at the FCS level, and the Seawolves’ early-season losses have been significant. Now, they’re short-handed against a Towson team that might be the best one they face all season.
“We’ve got enough depth to overcome our injuries,” Priore said. “As soon as you let injuries define who you are, you will not be successful.”