Stony Brook went into Saturday night’s home opener against Bryant looking for a little mouthwash. For seven days it sat with the taste of a poor performance in last weekend’s loss at FBS foe Air Force. It looked like it might gag in the attempt to rinse it out, but ultimately emerged refreshed.
The Seawolves scored the game’s first 20 points, then gave up all of that lead to fall behind in the third quarter. It gathered itself by scoring from the offense, the defense and special teams to pull away for a 50-21 non-conference win before 5,708 at LaValle Stadium.
The 38-0 loss last week to the Falcons in Colorado Springs where Stony Brook managed only 75 yards of offense and four first downs? It’s all but faded in the rearview mirror now.
“When we came in [last] Sunday, we said we wanted to turn the page, but we also said we never want to forget what that felt like,” said quarterback Joe Carbone, who ran for two touchdowns and threw for a third. “That’s never going to happen again and it didn’t happen tonight.”
Carbone’s two scores and EJ Fineran's 79-yard interception return for a touchdown staked Stony Brook (1-1) to the 20-0 lead. But when Alfred Dorbor of Bryant (1-1) scored from 2 yards with 6:38 left in the third quarter, the Seawolves were looking at a one-point deficit.
In that crucial moment, Carbone took them on a 67-yard touchdown drive in less 2 minutes, 7 seconds to take the lead for good.
Jordan Gowins had runs of 14 and 15 yards to set the table and Carbone found Donald Liotine for a 24-yard scoring pass and a 27-21 lead. Liotine called it a “gotcha” play, where by sending a receiver in motion, the Bulldogs had to switch defenders against him and got crossed up.
“This is a group I really enjoy coaching — I think it’s got good character,” SBU coach Chuck Priore said. “They believe each other. That’s an interesting time in a football game, when you are up and the next thing you know, it looks like it’s falling apart. We got a great call for the touchdown pass.”
“You could just feel the energy there,” Liotine said of striking back for the lead. “Once we were pushing into the red zone, you feel like that’s going to be a turning point in the game if you can execute there . . . You could just tell everybody’s ready.”
It was the start of 30 unanswered points. They included Casey Williams blocking a punt and returning it 12 yards for a touchdown, a Nick Courtney 29-yard field goal and Demarcus Miller’s interception and 95-yard return for a score on the game’s last play. The two defensive touchdowns (and three total takeaways) ameliorated an uneven performance by a unit that allowed 413 yards and committed penalties totaling approximately 100 yards.
The offense that stumbled seven days earlier went for an efficient 426 yards with Gowins taking 14 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown and Liotine rushing 11 times for 107 yards. Carbone completed 10 of 25 passes for 153 yards, but his runs were a revelation.
The senior threw for 28 touchdowns last season and ran for none. His two in one game — each on options where he pulled back the handoff to take it himself — matched his career high set in 2015 against Central Connecticut and James Madison.
“He made some good decisions,” Priore said. “They didn’t respect him and bent on the run, so he pulled it and got us a couple of early scores.”
“I probably should have given [the handoff] on one of them,” Carbone said, “but I was into the game and excited and wanted to hit somebody.”