Coming off two tough road losses, the loss of star running back Stacey Bedell and a much-needed bye week, it's almost as if Stony Brook football coach Chuck Priore was forced to hit the "reset" button before the Seawolves meet Towson at 6 p.m. Saturday at LaValle Stadium, where a record homecoming crowd is anticipated.
In their last home game, the Seawolves (2-2, 1-2 Colonial Athletic Association) knocked off then-No. 13 New Hampshire and Bedell rushed for 193 yards. But much has changed since losses at No. 24 William & Mary, where Bedell suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, and at No. 5 James Madison.
Knowing he wouldn't have Bedell at JMU, Priore shifted the emphasis on offense a bit, and that process continued during the bye week as he prepared for Towson (2-3, 0-2 CAA).
"You saw the quarterback run the ball a little bit more with some designed runs, especially down on the goal line and in some short-yardage situations," Priore said of a 38-20 loss at JMU. "We have confidence in the other backs, too. We just have to get our feet underneath us and we'll be fine."
Running backs Isaiah White, Donald Liotine and possibly Travis Liburd must pick up the slack created by Bedell's absence. But Priore also likes what he has seen from redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Carbone, who has been alternating with senior Conor Bednarski. Carbone rushed for 41 yards and two touchdowns and had 132 of the Seawolves' 249 passing yards at JMU.
"He's got some of those things you can't teach, which is instincts," Priore said of Carbone. "When the game happens, he makes good decisions. His two touchdown runs and three fourth-down plays, he put the ball where it had to go. He was able to figure it out, and that's pretty good."
Carbone is up for the challenge. "If Coach needs me to run some more, I'm glad to put my head down and get some extra yards," he said. "In high school, I ran a lot. I guess I'm a dual threat."
Stony Brook will rely on its strong defense to control Towson running back Darius Victor and limit the passing of Connor Frazier. As much as Priore would like to control the clock with his running game, he knows it's important to emphasize the passing game to put the ball in the hands of wide receiver Ray Bolden.
Bednarski is the more experienced passer but has completed only 42.5 percent of his passes after offseason shoulder surgery. Carbone has a 59.1 percent completion rate.
"I think we're pretty confident in our passing attack," Carbone said. "It's something we were planning to do anyway against Towson. We have explosive athletes. It will be awesome to get them the ball and have them make plays for us."