Lafayette is a long-time football power in the Patriot League and was coming off an 8-3 season a year ago, but when Stony Brook's players looked at their schedule this week, they saw an opponent with a 0-5 record. Maybe they even knew the Leopards were down to their fourth tailback in freshman Pat Mputu because of injuries.
What they weren't prepared for was a Lafayette team that controlled the line of scrimmage for 32:14. After the Seawolves pulled within 17-14 with 10:35 left to play, the defense had to be confident when backup Leopards quarterback Marc Quilling replaced starter Ryan O'Neil, who suffered a head injury. They weren't prepared to see Lafayette drive the ball down their throats as Mputu carried 10 times for 48 yards in a 60-yard drive for a 29-yard field goal by Davis Rodriguez that all but put the game in the bank with 2:43 left.
Neither was SBU's offensive line prepared to get overrun after getting the ball at their own 15 following the kickoff. The Seawolves were pushed back to their 1-yard line, where they gave the ball up on downs to set up Lafayette's final TD. Never mind the 11 penalties for 119 yards that prevented Stony Brook from taking control. The Seawolves (2-4) got beaten at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Did they take Lafayette too lightly? "Possibly," quarterback Michael Coulter said. "I can't say definitely. That plays a part. Maybe we didn't fear them enough, prepare enough. It comes down on Saturdays to execution, and we've got to execute against any team we play."
Freshman linebacker Jawara Dudley, who led the Wolves with 12 tackles, including two for a loss, agreed SBU might not have given the Leopards enough respect. "We should never underestimate any team," Dudley all but whispered outside the Seawolves' locker room.
Recalling Lafayette's field-goal drive, which took 7:52 off the clock in the fourth quarter when SBU needed a stop, Dudley added, "We weren't executing very good. They controlled the line of scrimmage at the end and got the field goal. They had momentum, and they were fired up. We didn't pull it together as a team and nut up.
"They were excited. It's their homecoming, and you're supposed to come out fired up no matter what your record is. They were more intense than us."
After the game, Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore lectured his team for its undisciplined play and took particular issue with the unsportsmanlike penalties and personal fouls that occurred after the play at critical times and kept momentum in Lafayette's favor. "Football is not about winning and losing games," Priore said. "It's about playing with class, playing with dignity and playing with your heart. We've got to be better at those things. I would say we've got to grow up as a team, and it's not just the Xs and Os."
Asked if his players took Lafayette too lightly, Priore just shook his head and said, "I'm sure that happens, but I don't know why those things should happen unless you think you're real good and I don't know why we would think we're real good."
If there was a silver lining, it's that the loss was to a non-conference opponent. Stony Brook has five Big South Conference games remaining, starting next Saturday at Coastal Carolina, and the Seawolves, who are 1-0 in conference, still have a shot to defend their co-title and earn the league's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. But only if they grow up in a hurry.