Stony Brook had either piled up points, amassed huge yardage or both this season. But if the Seawolves are to make a third straight trip to the FCS playoffs, they must be a team that can win with more than just their high-scoring offense. And on Saturday night they showed they aren’t there yet.
No. 23 Stony Brook was in a matchup with sizeable and physical New Hampshire and its bend-don’t-break defense, managed to gain 386 yards but didn’t see much of the end zone and suffered a 20-14 Colonial Athletic Association loss at LaValle Stadium.
Stony Brook (4-3, 1-2) has lost two straight, the first time that’s happened in the regular season since it dropped the final four games of the 2016 season.
The Seawolves led 14-10 in the fourth quarter. They eschewed going for a 44-yard field goal at the end of the third quarter, Tyquell Fields threw incomplete on fourth-and-3 at the UNH 27 and the Wildcats answered with a 73-yard scoring drive that ended with Brian Espanet making a circus catch falling out of bounds of quarterback Max Brosmer’s throw for a 20-yard touchdown.
“You’ve got to make decisions and you’ve got to stand by your decisions,” SBU coach Chuck Priore said. “The final score was 20-14 so probably it wouldn’t have mattered. That’s how I’ll answer the question.”
It put New Hampshire (4-2, 3-0) ahead for good, but it was not the end of the drama.
The Wildcats tacked on a 42-yard field goal to go up 20-14 with 5:07 to play and Jean Constant – the graduate transfer from Bryant who was twice named all-American at kick returner – took the ensuing kickoff 86 yards to inside the Wildcats 5; however UNH coach Ricky Santos saw the replay on the scoreboard and asked for a review of the play. Constant, it turned out, made a sharp cut back at the Seawolves’ 22 that caused him to slip. He tried to put his hand down to prevent his knee from touching, but game officials ruled his knee had touched.
“I felt like I got my hand down but they said my knee touched, Constant said. “It’s a little disappointing. . . . Field position can change the game.”
“That was a blow,” Priore said. “I’m going to assume they were right about the replay. If the replay was wrong I’m sure we’ll get a formal apology.”
UNH forced the Seawolves to punt on that possession and the Wildcats were able to run the clock out on Stony Brook.
Fields was 12-for-25 passing for 180 yards and had a 15-yard touchdown connection to Constant. Ty Son Lawton had 23 carried for 124 yards and a one-yard score for SBU. And Stony Brook started eight of its 10 possessions inside its own 26 as UNH didn’t make many mistakes to capitalize on.
Brosmer was 16-for-26 passing for 196 yards and two touchdowns for UNH. Redshirt freshman Dylan Laube – the 2017 Hansen Award co-winner out of Westhampton High – rushed for 48 yards on seven carries and had a 45-yard kickoff return.
I don’t think we played our ‘A’ game and there were a couple crucial fourth downs we didn’t get,” Priore said. “When I look at this at the end of the day it’s field position. We fought a long field and they got a shorter field several times.”
The Seawolves were 6-for-13 on third downs, but 0-for-3 on fourth downs. Field said they shouldn’t have been playing from behind so much, “but we came out slow.”
Espanet caught a 15-yard touchdown from Brosmer in the first quarter before SBU evened things up with a 12-play drive that ended with Field’s touchdown pass to Constant and it was 7-7 at halftime. Lawton’s touchdown with 5:11 to go in the third quarter gave SBU the 14-10 lead they couldn’t hang on to.
Fields called the defeat “just one loss,” but asked about how much more they can afford if they are to be a postseason team he replied “we don't want to lose any more, it’s really important not to. We want to keep on going to keep winning.”