The endgame for Stony Brook wasn’t going to be the FCS playoffs like the previous two years. The Seawolves entered Saturday knowing the fifth annual clash for the Golden Apple Trophy against their rivals from Albany was going to be the conclusion to this 2019 story.
The Great Danes raced out to a 24-point lead early in the second quarter. Stony Brook scored the next 20, cutting it to four early in the fourth. But Albany countered with a touchdown and held on to claim the trophy for the second straight year, emerging with a 31-26 win at LaValle Stadium.
So the Seawolves finished 5-7, ending on a 1-6 slide after a promising 4-1 start. They went just 2-6 in the CAA.
“It was a roller coaster for us,” redshirt junior quarterback Tyquell Fields said after throwing for 223 yards and a career-high-tying three touchdowns. “We came in a young team experience-wise. I feel like there’s a lot to build on going into next season … I think I’ll be much better just because I’m going to feel more comfortable.”
Jeff Undercuffler threw for 183 yards and a touchdown and Karl Mofor ran for 176 yards and three scores to help the Great Danes (8-4, 6-2) likely clinch an at-large playoff ticket. They will find out Sunday. They were sure happy Saturday.
“The Apple is a big deal to our kids,” coach Greg Gattuso said. “We couldn’t wait to take it home on the bus with us this week.”
It looked like the bus might leave without it. Fields went left for a 5-yard touchdown pass to Nick Anderson. Nick Courtney’s kick was blocked. But it was 24-20 just 34 seconds into the fourth.
Albany, however, responded with a 13-play, 67-yard drive that took 8 minutes, 42 seconds. Mofor ran it in from the 3 with 5:36 to play.
Fields eventually hit Andrew Trent for a 7-yard score, then misfired on a two-point pass. So it was a five-point game. But there were only four seconds left.
The Seawolves had taken too long to get going. Mofor rushed for two short scores and Undercuffler threw for one, and it was 21-0 after one quarter. The Great Danes owned a huge 227-33 advantage in yardage at that point.
After the score went to 24-0, Synceir Malone kept it there by picking off a pass by receiver Jerah Reeves at the Stony Brook 3. Fields turned the turnover into a 23-yard TD throw to Brandon Benson.
Three plays later, Makye Smith and Gavin Heslop double-teamed to sack Undercuffler, who fumbled. Heslop, a redshirt senior defensive back, recovered the ball and raced 9 yards to the end zone.
“It’s bittersweet,” Heslop said about going out with a touchdown.
It remained 24-14 at the intermission. But Chuck Priore’s Seawolves were headed for their fourth loss by seven points or fewer.
“Obviously, we were not good enough to win those games, starting with the head coach,” Priore said. “When you lose close games, there’s generally a theme. I will say on the kids’ behalf that we didn’t have a bad practice all year. That’s why we were in every game.”