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Patience and suffocating defense play out well for Stony Brook

Stony Brook RB James Kenner runs for seven

Stony Brook RB James Kenner runs for seven yards in the first half of a game against Maine on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. Photo Credit: George A. Faella

Some teams have explosive offenses like, say, Baylor and TCU, who totaled 119 points in their game Saturday. Stony Brook comes at things from the opposite direction.

The Seawolves "exploded" on defense Saturday night at LaValle Stadium, destroying a Maine offense that virtually gave up trying to run and holding the Black Bears to 35 yards of offense in the final three quarters. After a slow start, Stony Brook's offense finally broke out for 16 second-half points on the way to a 19-7 Colonial Athletic Association victory before 5,842 fans.

Quarterback Conor Bednarski came out throwing after halftime and led two touchdown drives, completing 14 of 20 passes for 140 yards and one touchdown. Running back Stacey Bedell carried 23 times for 127 yards and one touchdown and James Kenner added 89 yards on 17 carries.

The Seawolves (3-4, 2-1 CAA), who came into the game ranked No. 1 in total defense in the FCS, allowing 229.8 yards per game, did way better than that. They held Maine (2-4, 1-2) to 135 total yards, including 18 yards rushing on 14 carries. SBU made eight tackles for loss, including three sacks. The Black Bears had the ball for only 44 plays and 19:01 compared with 71 plays and 40:59 for Stony Brook, which totaled 366 yards on offense.

Stony Brook outgained Maine 153 yards to 14 in the third quarter. "I'm glad they're on our side," Seawolves coach Chuck Priore said of his defense. "We got off to a slow start, but the third quarter was awesome."

SBU won the coin toss, but Priore deferred to put his defense on the field first, only to see that move backfire.

On the second play of the game, Black Bears tight end Jeremy Salmon faked a block, released late and was uncovered as he gathered in a perfect deep ball from quarterback Dan Collins. Salmon completed a 73-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead 50 seconds into the game.

"I should have sacked the quarterback on that play," said SBU rover back Christian Ricard, who had a team-high six tackles. "But we've been there before. Nothing changed. We stuck to our guns, followed our keys and believed in each other."

The Stony Brook offense struggled to gain yardage on first down and managed only a 22-yard field goal by Przemyslaw Popek for a 7-3 halftime deficit. But when the second half opened, it was as if the Seawolves unleashed their pent-up frustration.

Bednarski completed three straight passes to three different receivers covering 41 yards before Bedell broke several tackles on a 24-yard scoring run for a 10-7 lead. It marked the first third-quarter score of the season by the Seawolves.

Their second third-quarter score came with 2:38 left in the period at the end of a 10-play, 77-yard drive that was virtually mistake-free. Kenner carried five times for 31 yards and Bednarski completed all three passes he attempted, ending with a 10-yard TD pass to wide-open tight end Will Tye. Popek missed the extra point but added a 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

"We knew we had some plays in the first half ," Bednarski said. "I don't want to say panic set in. In the second half, we just saw what the defense was doing and took advantage."

Priore said his coaching staff "won halftime" by sticking to its basic game plan and just changing one pass-protection scheme to better handle Maine's blitzing. The Seawolves simply relied on their running game and their brilliant defense the rest of the way.

"Our defense allows us to be conservative and play field position," Priore said. "That was a man's effort tonight."

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