Stony Brook's season was sliding away, going down under a pile of injuries and not-good-enough play. So Chuck Priore went with his gut, went all-in with a redshirt freshman quarterback who can run, giving Joe Carbone his first collegiate start in place of senior Conor Bednarski on Saturday.
"I was really excited to start," said Carbone, who had been in a timeshare with Bednarski. "It was a dream come true, really."
But the dream gave way to reality. Carbone, who played the whole way, ran for only 26 yards, completed only 18 of 41 passes for 142 yards and was intercepted four times.
And the Seawolves are still sliding. Elon beat them, 21-7, at LaValle Stadium, handing them their fifth loss in a row, Stony Brook's longest skid since five straight losses in 2008.
"I think the loss is on my back," Carbone said. "That was my fault. I played a pretty bad game. I take responsibility for that loss."
Priore took responsibility for all the losses. "Any time we're not winning, it falls directly on my shoulders, and directly on my shoulders to be able to fix it,'' the 10th-year Stony Brook coach said after his team dropped to 2-5 overall and 1-5 in the CAA with three games left.
Priore's team arrived missing a total of eight injured first- and second-stringers. The losing streak began at William & Mary when leading rusher Stacey Bedell suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Second-leading rusher Isaiah White is out for the season with a foot injury. The Seawolves averaged only 2.1 yards on 50 runs against Elon.
"If you're a great team, you can absorb injuries," Priore said. "If you're a good team, sometimes you can't. Stacey's injury obviously is not good."
With the score tied at 7 late in the third quarter, Carbone threw a deflected interception that gave Elon the ball at the Seawolves' 36. Daniel Thompson cashed in, firing a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jon Thomas 40 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Malcolm Summers provided a cushion, bursting through the middle for a 43-yard score. Elon was on its way to snapping its own three-game slide, moving to 3-5, 2-3. "We went into the game expecting to win, expecting to be a dominating defense," said Elon safety Chris Blair, who had an interception.
Carbone tossed his first three interceptions in the first half, which ended with Elon up 7-0 thanks to a long left-side heave from Connor Christiansen to Demetrius Oliver that went for a 50-yard touchdown.
"The receiver made a great play on that," said safety Naim Cheeseboro, who was in the vicinity.
But Stony Brook went on an 18-play, 75-yard journey to open the second half. Donald Liotine carried the ball the final yard for the touchdown.
"We decided [at halftime] we needed to run the ball and just stand up and be your typical Stony Brook team and hammer it in there," Liotine said.
Priore said he expects "at this point" to start Carbone next Saturday against visiting Howard.
"I told the team this before the game: I've got four games to coach in maybe my career because who knows? Who knows what's going to happen tomorrow morning?" Priore said. "We're going to take a one-game approach and get back and just work hard and fight till it's over."