Maybe it was the season-opening jitters.
For a little more than 30 minutes of their season opener against New Hampshire, Stony Brook looked very much deserving of being picked 10th of 12 in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason football poll. They turned the ball over three times, trailed by 20 at halftime and fell back by 27 early in the third quarter.
However, after that huge stumble, the Seawolves recovered their balance and actually started to excel. But in the end the early miscues proved too much for Stony Brook to rally from and it fell, 27-21 ,to the Wildcats at LaValle Stadium.
The Seawolves had a chance in the final minute to tie the score or even go ahead. They forced a punt and took over with two minutes left and no timeouts. They drove from the Wildcats’ 44 to the 19. However on a fourth-and-3 quarterback Tyquell Fields couldn’t quite connect with Shawn Harris Jr. in the back corner of the end zone. UNH needed one snap to run the final seconds off the clock.
"The first half, it looked like we lacked a lot of juice," said linebacker Tyler King, who made several big defensive plays, including forcing a fumble to set up SBU’s second touchdown. "We’ve just got to get started with the juice. We got to play that way all the way through. We can’t wait until the third or fourth [quarter] to really get it going like that."
"It’s not the outcome we wanted," SBU coach Chuck Priore said. "I do have a lot of respect [how] we played in the second half and certainly had opportunities . . . to pull out a win.
"I’m disappointed but encouraged by how we finished."
Fields was 21-for-43 for 255 yards and a 41-yard touchdown to Khalil Newton and also rushed for 54 yards, including the 17-yard run that cut the margin to 27-21 with 3:03 to play.
Newton had five receptions for 76 yards and Akeel Lalaind had 12 tackles.
New Hampshire’s Bret Edwards was 17-for-25 passing for 233 yards and three touchdowns without throwing an interception. Brian Espanet caught touchdown passes of 3 and 64 yards, Kyle Lepkowski caught a 4-yard touchdown pass and Sean Coyne scored a 4-yard touchdown on the option.
Stony Brook paved the way for UNH to build its lead. Down 6-0, running back Jayden Cook fumbled on the SBU 4 and Coyne scored on the next play. The ensuing Stony Brook possession ended with Fields getting picked off by Jonathan Collins Jr., who returned the ball 65 yards to the Seawolves’ 20. Four plays later Espanet made his first touchdown reception.
It could have been worse than 20-0 at halftime, but King and Brandon Lopez had big stops in a goal line stand before halftime.
"Everybody stepped back at halftime [and] we all rallied together," Fields said. "Everybody told each other to take a break and treat it as 0-0 and they applied that when we got out for the second half. It made a big difference."
With the score still 27-14 in the fourth quarter, UNH turned back a big scoring opportunity by the Seawolves. On fourth-and-3 from the UNH 8, Fields was sacked for a 10-yard loss by the ’Cats’ Pop Bush to turn the ball over on downs. The Seawolves got the ball back and drove for Fields’ 17-yard score with 3:03 to play.
They didn’t have another score in it, but Stony Brook may prove to be better than anticipated.
"Without a doubt," King said. "Fine tune a couple little things, make three or four more splash plays and the outcome of that game could have been completely different."