NEWARK, Del. — The wind was so strong and unpredictable on Saturday afternoon that the American flag above the south endzone at Delaware Stadium eventually became tangled in the state flag below it, making it impossible to tell which direction it was blowing.
Somehow, the wind was only the second most powerful force of nature impacting the game.
Stony Brook linebacker John Haggart tore through Delaware’s offense like a cyclone. The Sayville product piled up three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, three sacks, 11 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss as Stony Brook smothered the host Blue Hens, 28-3, in the first meeting between the two Colonial Athletic Association football programs.
Haggart forced his first fumble early in the second quarter while he drove Delaware quarterback Joe Walker to the ground with a nine-yard sack. Jaheem Woods picked the football up and ran 55 yards untouched into the endzone to give Stony Brook the lead for good, 7-0.
“We knew we had to be relentless,” said Haggart, who was the Hansen Award runner up in 2011 after leading Sayville to a Long Island Championship.
Delaware, which has won six national championships, fumbled seven times and lost five of them. The Blue Hens had lost only three fumbles all season entering the game and had not lost five fumbles in a game since 1995.
The Seawolves (5-2, 4-0 CAA) sacked Walker five times. Tyrice Beverette recorded a team-high 13 tackles and had half a sack.
“They have a good defensive line,” said Delaware offensive lineman Brody Kern. “They’re all quick-twitch guys. They all can move. They move pieces around. They slanted on every single play.”
Haggart gave the credit to defensive coordinator Lyle Hemphill, who grew up in Delaware, where his father was a legendary high school coach.
“Coach Hemp’s the man,” Haggart said. “He’s the reason why we’re all crazy savages every game. We knew how good they are at running the ball. He had things down to a T all day.”
The Blue Hens (2-5, 0-4 CAA) entered the game averaging 270.8 rushing yards per game, eighth best in the nation. Stony Brook, which has the country’s No. 2 rush defense, held Delaware to 150 rushing yards.
Stacey Bedell led the Seawolves offense with 120 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Quarterback Joe Carbone added 45 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
The wind made passing and kicking virtually impossible. Carbone completed six of 13 passes for 75 yards. He said the wind was as hard to deal with as it looked.
“You just kind of try to step in and throw it,” Carbone said. “We have a good defense so that makes it pretty easy on me.”
The wind knocked the ball down on kickoffs, forcing the Seawolves to use a holder as if they were attempting a field goal. Stony Brook did not actually attempt any field goals, and went for it on fourth down three times, with one big conversion.
Carbone dropped back to pass on fourth and long midway through the third quarter, then wisely thought better of it. He tucked the ball in and ran 24 yards up the middle to the endzone to put the Seawolves up 14-3.
“They were in man coverage but didn’t account for the quarterback,” Carbone said.
Bedell capped the scoring with touchdown runs of 20 and 33 yards in the fourth quarter.
Delaware was playing its first game under coach Dennis Dottin-Carter, who took over on interim basis after former Hofstra associate coach Dave Brock was fired last Sunday.
“Maybe the ball was slippery I didn’t touch it,” the new coach said, when asked to explain all the fumbles. “At the end of the day they’re all excuses. I’m not going to blame the wind, but the wind was obviously a factor. They had to play against the wind, too.”
True, but only Delaware had to play against Haggart.