For most of the previous four years, John Kinder was a spectator on the Syracuse sideline, and last season, he even moved from quarterback to wide receiver in practice. So after just one summer training camp, it was asking a lot for him to take charge of Stony Brook's offense and to produce immediate dividends.
With the exception of one highlight-reel touchdown pass, Kinder struggled Thursday night, and so did the Seawolves' offense in a disappointing 13-7 season-opening loss to Bryant in front of a LaValle Stadium crowd of 10,252, third largest in school history.
Stony Brook's usually prolific attack produced only 186 yards of total offense and a mere eight first downs. Kinder completed only 7 of 18 passes for 101 yards and was sacked four times for 37 yards in losses. He threw two interceptions, including one on fourth-and-4 at the Bryant 40- yard line that was returned 29 yards by the Bulldogs' Sebastien Amedee with just over four minutes left.
That sealed the fate of the Seawolves, who got 116 yards rushing on 27 carries by former William Floyd star Stacey Bedell. He started in place of Marcus Coker, who was serving a one-game suspension.
SBU's defense was outstanding, allowing 233 yards and 11 first downs and getting 12 tackles each from rover Christian Ricard and linebacker Jeremy Leggiero.
Kinder couldn't rekindle much that was reminiscent of his athletic exploits at Lawrence High School. "I guess it was difficult to get back in the swing of things," he said. "It was a rough night. There were a few things I'd like to have back, like the interceptions. You can't have turnovers."
Kinder's only action for the Orange came in four games on special teams, and the rust showed when his first two drives ended with third-down sacks. Gifted with good field position, Bryant came away from its first two possessions with field goals of 32 and 27 yards by Tom Aliberti for a 6-0 lead.
The Seawolves didn't manage their initial first down until early in the second quarter on a 7-yard run by Bedell to the Bulldogs' 37. Three plays later, Kinder threw an end-zone interception to cornerback Bobby Rutland.
The Seawolves' defense minimized the damage by forcing a three-and-out series, and Stony Brook took over at its 39. Nine seconds later, the Seawolves were celebrating. Kinder connected on a lightning strike to wide-open wide receiver Adrian Coxson down the middle for a 61-yard touchdown and a sudden 7-6 lead with 8:22 left in the first half. "That was my first college TD, so it felt great," Kinder said. "But I'd rather have the win."
Stony Brook's defense might have made that lead stand up, but on fourth-and-9, Easton completed the go-ahead 37-yard TD pass to Chad Ward midway through the third quarter. Redshirt freshman cornerback Marvin Hart, subbing for a starter who had cramps, fell on the play.
Stony Brook got no deeper than the Bryant 37 in the second half. Coach Chuck Priore credited Bryant for changing its defensive scheme to confuse Kinder. "They did things defensively that took away the passing game we had planned," he said. "They were 100 percent different than the way they were on film. We threw the game plan in the garbage at halftime. We had to change every blocking scheme."
If nothing else, the Seawolves know what must be fixed.