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Conversions matter in Stony Brook's up-down, up-down loss at New Hampshire

Stony Brook quarterback Conor Bednarski (16) goes toe

Stony Brook quarterback Conor Bednarski (16) goes toe to toe with Wildcat defensive end Cody Muller (96) in the first half against the UNH Wildcats at Cowell Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014 in New Hampshire. Credit: AP / Cheryl Senter

DURHAM, N.H. - Stony Brook's two-touchdown lead over an explosive New Hampshire team ranked No. 3 and No. 5 in the FCS polls had evaporated, and a trick pass play left the Seawolves staring at a one-TD deficit with the clock winding down to the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter Saturday at Cowell Stadium.

But rover back Christian Ricard blocked a 40-yard field-goal attempt by the Wildcats and chased the ball down at the UNH 43. It was the electric shock to the heart that revived Stony Brook's offense. Four plays later, wide receiver Adrian Coxson gathered in a perfectly thrown 31-yard pass from Conor Bednarski at the back of the end zone for the tying TD.

Well, "tying" as soon as Graham Ball kicked the extra point.

"I was thinking, 'We've got to kick the extra point,' " Bednarski said later. "It was a great catch, but it wasn't enough."

No, it wasn't. Ball had nailed two PATs earlier, but this one was driven low into the line, leaving the Seawolves a point short.

Desperate to force a turnover, Stony Brook came with an all-out blitz on the next possession, and the Wildcats' Jimmy Owens broke a 51-yard touchdown run that clinched a 28-20 Colonial Athletic Association victory over the Seawolves (4-5, 3-2 CAA).

That last TD by New Hampshire (6-1, 4-0) likely never would have happened if the score had been tied or if Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore had gone for two and succeeded.

"We should've went for two," Priore said with a rueful smile. "We said we'd do it if we were in that kind of game."

But Priore had second thoughts after his team battled back to tie with 3:22 left. "I didn't want to put the kids in a bad position," he said of the possibility it might have failed. "I felt we could hold them."

It was a bitter ending to a game that started out with an offense that had struggled much of the season executing to perfection. Bednarski, who was 22-for-41 for 227 yards and one interception, completed the first seven passes he threw and led touchdown drives of 81 and 76 yards at the outset.

He threw an 11-yard strike to tight end Will Tye for the opening TD. The running of Marcus Coker, who had his best game of the season with 11 carries for 89 yards, set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Stacey Bedell for a 14-0 lead.

Instead of pounding the ball on the ground, Bednarski completed 11 passes to freshman Donavin Washington for 102 yards and eight to Coxson for 101 yards and the late TD. "Those plays went as designed, but we couldn't keep executing," Bednarski said.

Defensively, pass-rushing end Victor Ochi was all over New Hampshire quarterback Andy Vailas, recording four of Stony Brook's five sacks. Vailas (18-for-30) managed only 131 yards passing and threw an end-zone interception. But he kept drives alive with his legs, running for TDs of 18 and 14 yards. Christian Breda's two-point conversion run after the second TD gave the Wildcats a 15-14 lead.

"I give it to him," Ochi said. "He's a great player. He had a lot of composure. You've got to account for his feet because he's a dual-threat quarterback."

Stony Brook's No. 1-ranked FCS defense stymied the Wildcats in the second half until running back Nico Steriti ran a reverse and hit wide-open R.J. Harris for a 73-yard TD. The extra point missed, leaving the Wildcats with a 21-14 lead.

The Seawolves hung tough until Ricard came up with his block -- he credited Ochi for the hit that sprung him -- and Bednarski produced the almost-tying TD.

"I'm real proud of how we played offensively," Priore said, noting that the Seawolves had the most first downs, most yards and most time of possession. "Everything was scripted -- outside of the final score."


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