By all rights, Lafayette should have been running away at halftime of Stony Brook's homecoming game Saturday night at LaValle Stadium. The Leopards started drives at their own 44-yard line, midfield and at Stony Brook's 19- and 32-yard lines. All they had to show for it was two field goals and a 6-all tie at halftime.
Stony Brook's defense forced three Lafayette turnovers in the first half at the Seawolves, 23, 4 and 15 and then forced two more Leopards turnovers in the second half and blocked a field goal. It was an awesome effort, and no one did more than safety Dan Mulrooney, a transfer from Boston College, whose family was down from Prospect, Ct. for the game.
The catalog of big Mulrooney plays began just over three minutes into the game when he intercepted a pass from Lafayette quarterback Andrew Shoop at Stony Brook's 47. Early in the second quarter, Shoop hit running back Ross Scheuerman with a 53-yard pass that looked as if it might go for a touchdown until Mulrooney came across the field to catch him at the Seawolves' 5-yard line. Two plays later, Mulrooney hit receiver Jet Kollie so hard that he coughed up the ball. Cornerback Davonte Anderson recovered at the 4-yard line.
Mulrooney actually was the victim on a fleaflicker late in the second quarter that went 43 yards from Shoop to Mitchell Bennett to the Seawolves' 10-yard line. Two plays later, Mulrooney atoned with a hit on Shoop, who tossed up a lollipop of a pass that was intercepted by Ryan Haber and returned to the 15.
Explaining how he shook off the fleaflicker and how Stony Brook hung tough after giving up big plays, Mulrooney said, "Big plays happen. It's part of the game. You've got to rally to the ball and keep playing."
Early in the third quarter, Mulrooney was in the right spot when linebacker Jawara Dudley, who had a spectacular night with nine tackles (eight solo) and two sacks, blew up Shoop on a blitz and forced a fumble. "I knew it was a blitz, and I just followed the charge," Mulrooney said. "It bounced right in my lap." Mulrooney carried it to the Lafayette 42 to set up Miguel Maysonet's second touchdown for a 20-6 lead.
Asked if he ever made so many big plays in one game, Mulrooney said, "Not in college. I was just in the right spot."
He wasn't the only defender who excelled. Dudley played yet another terrific game, and cornerback Anderson made two TD-saving plays to go with his fumble recovery. Anderson made an end-zone interception in the third quarter and then caught Scheuerman from behind on a 44-yard run to Stony Brook's 31. Four plays later, linebacker Grant Nakwaasah blocked a Lafayette field goal attempt. It was like getting a sixth turnover.
If there was one disappointing aspect of Stony Brook's play, it was a passing game that produced only one completion in 13 attempts by quarterbacks Michael Coulter and Kyle Essington. But coach Chuck Priore was unfazed because he was working with a wide receiver corps beset by injuries that left many of his players unable to practice. Matt Brevi unexpectedly even played a few downs with a shoulder separation because so many other receivers were limping around.
Myles Campbell (hamstring) was out, Kevin Norrell (hamstring) and Chris McMillan (ankle) were nursing injuries, and Jordan Gush, who caught one pass for 35 yards was at about 75 percent, according to Priore.
"The passing game will be better," Priore said.
Under adverse circumstances, all the Seawolves showed some toughness when it counted and got on the winning side of the ledger for the first time after a couple of tough losses in the first three games. Now, they get a week off to recover before the next home game against Presbyterian on Oct. 8 to open defense of their shared Big South title.
As Priore said of the win, "We have some psychological things taken care of."