The difference on the scoreboard at UB Stadium Saturday night was a whopping 35-7 Buffalo blowout of Stony Brook, but the real difference in the game were the big plays that the Bulls' FBS-level athletes were able to produce in all the big moments against the FCS Seawolves.
Except for the points column, Stony Brook's effort looked a lot better on the stat sheet. They outrushed the Bulls (184-165), controlled the ball for 39:04 to 20:56 and managed a very respectable 298 yards total offense compared to Buffalo's 342. No one has shut down SBU running backs Miguel Maysonet and Brock Jackolski (pictured at UTEP). And by the way, the Bulls gained 403 yards and controlled the ball for 38 minutes in their opening loss at Pitt of the Big East.
Where the Seawolves lost was in big plays and the turnover battle. Buffalo QB Chazz Anderson's two touchdown passes went for 57 yards to Alex Dennison and 15 yards to Devon Hughes, both of whom were running free down the middle because of blown coverages. Bulls running back Branden Oliver totaled 126 yards rushing, most of which was accumulated on three long touchdown runs of 22, 49 and 43 yards.
Buffalo's athleticism really showed up even more on the defensive side of the ball. Seawolves quarterback Michael Coulter was sacked twice, and backup Kyle Essington was sacked once by outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who recorded his second forced fumble of the game on that play. Coulter and Essington combined to complete 13 of 21 passes but for only 114 yards and an interception on a tipped ball thrown by Coulter. Both quarterbacks were under pressure not only from Mack on the left side of Buffalo's defense but also from right defensive end Steven Means.
If the Seawolves eventually succeed in moving up from FCS level to FBS level, those are the kind of athletes Priore will have to recruit. As it was, the coach admitted he limited the passing game because he saw how effective Buffalo's rush was the previous week even its 35-16 loss at Pitt.
"We limited the number of times we put the kids in that position," Priore said. "They held up okay."
It's just that it was impossible to avoid some obvious passing situations, and that's where the youth on Stony Brook's offenive line showed with two freshmen and two sophomores getting most of the snaps. The Seawolves actually did a much better job in the opener at the University of Texas-El Paso, where they lost, 31-24 in overtime after losing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead.
"We did not match the emotional high that we got last week coming out of the tunnel, and we didn't execute across the board, especially in the situational plays we would have liked to," Priore said. "We didn't play our 'A' game. We played up [vs. FBS schools] two weeks in a row, and we're just physically and emotionally a little tired. They were the better team today, but we've gained a lot of confidence as a team."
The Seawolves' schedule from here on out includes only their fellow FCS schools, starting with Saturday's home opener against Brown. They can't take anyone for granted, but having showed they can hang with FBS teams respectably, expect the Seawolves to show they can run with the cream of the crop at the FCS level.