Pay no attention to what happened in Toledo just over a week ago. Never mind that Stony Brook took a 7-3 first-quarter lead while playing on the road against an excellent FBS team before falling behind 16-7 at halftime, when the game finally was canceled because of severe weather delays.
All of that was expunged from the record, and the Seawolves (0-0) are starting from scratch in their home opener against Central Connecticut State (0-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday at LaValle Stadium. If anything, the Toledo game was a sneak peek at what looked like an improved Stony Brook team in the first quarter before the weather disrupted the game.
"We got a great opportunity to handle adversity," coach Chuck Priore said of the unusual start, which had three delays totaling more than three hours before the decision to cancel. "We played good, physical football. I was real proud of our team. We flew around, and we were [upset] we didn't finish the game."
Priore made no bones about the fact that Mid-American Conference favorite Toledo was the better team, but the Seawolves sustained a six-minute opening drive behind the running of Stacey Bedell to score the first touchdown. The defense shut down Toledo's first two drives but then had trouble stopping the run after the first weather delay at the beginning of the second quarter.
"We came out strong on offense and defense," free safety Naim Cheeseboro said. "I think that showed us we can contend with everybody . . . The long breaks, waiting two hours to get back out there, your body shuts down after a while. If it had been a complete game, I definitely think we would have come out stronger."
Getting off to a strong start against CCSU, which lost its opener to Lehigh, 20-14, is critical for Stony Brook on two fronts. The Seawolves expect a big crowd and want to build fan support, and they also need to build confidence and momentum for the Colonial Athletic Association opener the following week at home against defending champion New Hampshire.
"We've always had great crowds at our home opener," Priore said. "I think that's going to be a major difference. We want to . . . have it be positive, certainly."
CCSU features a spread offense run by freshman quarterback Tavoin Pauldo, who threw two touchdown passes in the Blue Devils' opener and rushed for 49 yards. Playing that style of quarterback-driven offense should be good preparation for CAA play.
"We have to stop the quarterback," Cheeseboro said. "He can be dangerous because he's a running quarterback."
Cheeseboro said the focus is strictly on Central Connecticut despite the looming presence of New Hampshire. "We're excited," he said. "We only played a half of football, so guys are eager just to get a full game under their belt to see what we can do."