The holes that winless Rhode Island blew in the middle of Stony Brook's defensive line in the first half Saturday afternoon at LaValle Stadium were big enough to drive the proverbial dump truck through without a scratch. There were times when Rams running back Lyle McCombs must have reached the line of scrimmage and wondered where everyone had gone.
It truly was a measure of how dominant Seawolves defensive linemen Victor Ochi and Aaron Thompson have been this season. Both were out -- Ochi because of a sprained ankle and Thompson after knee surgery earlier in the week -- and it showed as McCombs rushed for 188 first-half yards on 20 carries.
"Rhode Island put together a nice game plan in the first half that kept us off balance," SBU coach Chuck Priore said after the Seawolves' 35-14 victory in a game that was tied at 14 at the half. "I give our team a lot of credit for the poise at halftime, coaches and players."
In the second half, the Seawolves (5-6, 4-3 Colonial Athletic Association) reverted to the defense that has been among the toughest nationally in FCS all season, holding the Rams (0-11, 0-7) to three first downs and one net yard rushing and giving up only 14 more rushing yards to McCombs.
SBU's defense even outscored URI in the second half as linebacker Julian Quintin returned a fumble 25 yards for the clinching touchdown.
At halftime, Quintin said Ochi stood up and "told us he'd take off that walking boot and play with us if he had to. He said we had to knuckle down and play our style of defense. No team has run on us like that this whole season. We knew we were better than that, even missing two of the most dominant D-linemen in the conference. Victor Ochi just gave us a nice little fire-up speech. We kept calm and made our adjustments."
The Seawolves started quickly in the first quarter as running back Stacey Bedell went 75 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown, aided by a key block from wide receiver Adrian Coxson.
"Adrian made a great block that was huge in springing me to the end zone," said Bedell, who rushed for a career-best 195 yards on 21 carries, including a 56-yarder for the final fourth-quarter TD. "There was one guy who hit my legs, but I was able to fight through the tackle and keep running. After that, nobody else was going to get me."
But McCombs, who rushed for 2,675 yards in three seasons at Connecticut before transferring to URI, responded with a 24-yard scoring run to tie it at 7.
Stony Brook quarterback Conor Bednarski hit tight end Will Tye with a 20-yard TD pass for a brief lead, but McCombs' running led a 54-yard drive that ended with Rams quarterback James Caparell scoring on a 9-yard run for a 14-14 halftime tie.
When the teams returned, it was clear the Seawolves had decided to "put their foot down," as Quintin said. McCombs rushed for three yards and the Rams made one first down in the third quarter.
"They really only ran two plays and were able to just gash us," Stony Brook rover back Christian Ricard said. "We had young players stepping up, and in the second half, they were able to get comfortable."
Stony Brook regained control on Marcus Coker's 5-yard run for a 21-14 lead midway through the third quarter. The clincher came in the fourth quarter when redshirt freshman nickel back Tyrice Beverette made the first of his two sacks, forcing the fumble by Caparell that Quintin scooped up. Beverette later added an interception.
"I saw the quarterback fighting to stay up and was hoping to get a shot at him," Quintin said. "It was the easiest TD I've ever gotten. All the credit goes to Tyrice. He played a monster game."