The running game always has been the bread and butter of coach Chuck Priore's offense at Stony Brook, but since star running back Stacey Bedell was lost for the season with a shoulder injury Sept. 26, the emphasis has shifted in terms of finding a playmaker.
Sophomore wide receiver Ray Bolden caught seven passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns and was targeted seven other times, including one that drew a pass-interference penalty, in the Seawolves' disappointing 21-14 loss to Towson last week. Stony Brook (2-3, 1-3 CAA) undoubtedly will lean on Bolden as its big-play threat when it tries to snap a three-game losing streak Saturday at Maine (2-4, 2-1).
"We thought he had to be a difference-maker coming in, and he has been since the first week," Priore said of Bolden. "He's a special player. He competes every play. I'm really proud of him."
Against Towson, the Seawolves had 16 rushing plays go for no gain or negative yardage and also had four sacks. Priore attributed that to individual breakdowns, but Bolden has been steadily productive with 32 catches for 395 yards and four touchdowns.
"I just try to remain consistent," he said. "I know we have guys who can make plays. We've just all got to jell together to make stuff happen."
Bolden is part of an influx of young players on an offense with only three seniors, and Priore said it's vital that they avoid a losing mentality.
"I'm preaching positive," he said. "It might be as important a game as I've coached here. These young guys have got to step to the plate. They've got to learn."
There's no question about the aptitude shown by Bolden. He was out of football last year after playing for Moorpark College -- a community college in California -- the previous season and drawing attention from such major schools as UCLA and Cal, among others. But he was one academic credit short and went home to Euless, Texas, to make it up.
Because of a recruiting visit to his high school when he was a junior, Bolden knew about Stony Brook.
"When they visited, Miguel Maysonet was still in the program and Kevin Norrell," Bolden said, referring to the Seawolves' top running back and wide receiver from their FCS playoff teams in 2011-12. "They were advertising those guys. I definitely checked it out."
Bolden actually spoke with Norrell before joining Stony Brook's program before the spring semester. "He told me about the opportunity he got here," Bolden said. "It was an appealing offer.
"I don't want to compare myself to Kevin. He's obviously a great player, probably the best receiver to come through here. I feel a certain pride when people bring my name up with his, but he's in his own category. I just want to get better."