It wasn't just the end of a rough inaugural season in the Colonial Athletic Association for Stony Brook and Albany on Saturday afternoon at LaValle Stadium. It was the end of an era for Bob Ford, the only football coach the Great Danes have known since the school revived football 44 years ago, and for Seawolves coach Chuck Priore, who played for Ford and started his coaching career under him.
Priore called it a "bittersweet" honor to coach against his 76-year-old mentor in his final game but added, "I know deep down inside, he's rooting for all the people that were part of him to be successful."
In a game in which "finishing" was the theme, Priore's Seawolves did it best, scoring touchdowns on their first three drives and carrying that momentum to a 24-3 victory. Despite a season plagued by an injury epidemic, SBU (5-6, 3-5 CAA) ended with its second impressive win in a row.
Priore was especially proud of a defense so decimated by injuries that tight end Connor Davis had to play defensive end, getting one of two Stony Brook sacks, and fullback Matt Faiella saw duty at nose tackle.
Linebacker Jawara Dudley, who played most of the season with a separated shoulder and had two tackles for a loss Saturday, said: "Honestly, we tried to keep the freshmen from not burning a lot of redshirts. We had to go out there and play. These two wins got the program on track for next year."
Undermanned Albany was held to 239 yards compared with 456 for SBU, but after falling behind 21-0 at the outset, the Great Danes battled. The 1-11 finish (0-8 CAA) was by far the worst mark for Ford, who was 256-170 in 41 varsity seasons.
"If we had started the game at halftime, we would have been better off," Ford joked about the 3-all second-half score.
Ford was honored in a brief pregame ceremony. But sentiment quickly gave way to the reality that the Great Danes have faced all season after upgrading from 35 to 54 scholarships, which is still nine below the FCS limit.
The Seawolves scored in dominant fashion on their first three possessions. Lyle Negron, who completed 15 of 26 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown, scored on a 1-yard run to complete the opening 78-yard drive. The next Seawolves drive went 91 yards in 10 plays, with Tyler Fredericks scoring on a 2-yard run for a 14-0 lead.
The third SBU drive also went 91 yards, but it required only one play, a short pass from Negron to Malcolm Eugene on the right flank. He sidestepped a tackler and raced up the sideline, stepping out of three more tackles on his way to tying the school record for longest passing TD.
"I've been in those situations a lot this year where I've been tackled from behind," said Eugene, who had 150 yards on seven catches. "I just kept running today."
The Seawolves also got big contributions from tight end Will Tye, who had seven receptions for 86 yards, and running back James Kenner, who carried 35 times for a season-high 151 yards, his fourth 100-yard game in the past five.
In the second half, Albany got on the board with a 31-yard field goal by Tom O'Riordan, and SBU capped the scoring with a 38-yard field goal by Graham Ball.
"It was great to finish these last two," said Negron, who fought through his own injured throwing shoulder all season. "It's been pretty tough. We've had a bunch of injuries, but the next guy stepped up and we kept working through it."