If you’re going into your biggest game of the season, this is how you want to be playing.
Stony Brook, currently ranked No. 18 nationally in the STATS FCS poll, performed a full-scale dismantling of 22nd-ranked Rhode Island on Saturday night. The Seawolves scored the game’s first 24 points, held a Rams offense that was averaging 37.0 points three touchdowns below that and grounded the URI air attack that had been averaging 276 yards per game to just 62.
The final tally of the homecoming carnage was a 52-14 CAA victory before a LaValle Stadium record crowd of 12,701.
Stony Brook (6-2, 4-1) plays at No. 4 James Madison next weekend. The Dukes are the gem of the conference, having played in the last two national title games.
“You always want to win. You always want to be playing well when you’re going to play the best,” Seawolves coach Chuck Priore said. “That’s the best team [James Madison] in our conference. It’s nationally ranked in the top five. It won the national championship two years ago and went to the national championship last year. We got our [butts] kicked when we played them in the second round of the playoffs last year.”
It’s a tough call on whether the offense or the defense was the more outstanding unit Saturday. The 52 points in a conference game eclipses the SBU 2016 record of 42 against Richmond. The defense allowed the Rams (4-3, 2-2) only 9 yards from scrimmage in the first 25 minutes. When Stony Brook was building its 24-0 lead, it started with an average field position of its own 42.
Two key defensive plays were Synceir Malone breaking up a potential touchdown pass to Aaron Parker in the end zone in the second quarter and CeQuan Jefferson’s interception to end URI’s opening possession after halftime.
“[Parker] is probably the best slot receiver I’ve guarded this season. I knew he’d be a challenge for the day. He got me on the release . . . but I wanted to finish the play and did,” Malone said. “We played very well. Every week we’re getting better. We’re playing with more confidence.”
Running backs Donald Liotine and Jordan Gowins — a pair of Long Islanders who SBU promotes as the Long Island Express — each eclipsed 100 yards in the same game for the fourth time this season. Liotine, of Medford, had 17 carries for 119 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run. Gowins, of Bellport, carried 22 times for 117 yards and TD runs of 1 and 4 yards.
They are the third duo to perform the feat at Stony Brook. Eddie Gowins (Jordan’s brother) and Conte Cuttino did it in 2008 and Miguel Maysonet and Brock Jackolski did it in 2011.
“We’re playing fundamentally sound, excited football,” Liotine said. “We know we could control every game with the run game. We have a great quarterback, too. It’s not difficult for us to play well if we do our assignments. We have the players around us to make plays.”
With the Seawolves rolling up 354 rushing yards, quarterback Joe Carbone didn’t have to do a ton, but he connected with Julius Wingate for a 33-yard touchdown in the second quarter and rushed for a 3-yard score in the fourth before coming out of the game.
Stony Brook also may have unveiled a new wrinkle in its already potent offense. Backup quarterback Tyquell Fields often comes in for a play and usually gets the carry. In the second quarter, he threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Cal Daniels that made it 24-0, something Carbone called “a good changeup.”
“Maybe I let the cat out of the bag,” Priore said. “I don’t want to tell JMU what we’re doing.”
But all on Stony Brook know that this upcoming test is going to be about much more than a wrinkle or just having a good day.
“We’re playing against [Goliath],” Priore said. “We’ll be the underdog by a lot. So be it …We have to go down there and play Stony Brook football and see what happens.”