As much as Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore tried to drum the "finish" message into the heads of his players during the offseason, it was deja vu all over again for the Seawolves on Saturday night at LaValle Stadium as they suffered a come-from-ahead 21-14 loss to Towson that was like a replay of last season.
The breakdown at the end was teamwide as SBU quarterback Conor Bednarski overthrew wide-open receiver Steve Marino on a potential go-ahead touchdown before kicker Przemyslaw Popek missed a poorly executed field-goal attempt from 24 yards with 3:48 to play. The defense then allowed the Tigers to drive 80 yards for Darius Victor's winning 6-yard touchdown run with 50 seconds to play.
The Seawolves (2-3, 1-3 CAA) outgained Towson 100 yards to 10 in the first quarter but the Tigers (3-3, 1-2) had a 236-114 advantage the rest of the way.
"I don't know what happened," Priore said. "Obviously, we didn't execute. We needed to play better on offense, and we needed to play better in certain situations on defense."
Priore agreed that it appeared Popek stutter-stepped on the botched field goal and added: "We drove down in position to score. We've got to finish that drive at the end of the fourth quarter. We have to convert the field goal."
Towson quarterback Connor Frazier, who was lifted after throwing four incompletions on the Tigers' first two drives, returned in the second half to play effectively, finishing with 100 yards on 11-for-19 passing and rushing for another 29 yards to complement Victor's 73-yard performance.
In the third quarter, Frazier accounted for 66 yards in a 71-yard march for the tying TD capped by Victor's 3-yard run.
In the Tigers' winning drive, Frazier completed three passes for 31 yards before Victor covered the last 17 yards in two runs.
"They just made plays," said Seawolves cornerback Travon Reid-Segure, who had a first-half interception but was called for pass interference on the winning drive. "It's very disappointing to see the end be the same thing [as last year]."
Stony Brook got a break early when Towson's Donnell Lewis fumbled a punt and the Seawolves' Kevin Fennell recovered at the Tigers' 25-yard line. On fourth-and-3, Bednarski fumbled the snap in shotgun formation but regained control and fired a 25-yard pass to Ray Bolden in the right corner of the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Redshirt freshman Joe Carbone then took over at quarterback and led a 61-yard scoring drive that ended with his 13-yard TD pass to Bolden at the right pylon for a 14-0 lead.
Freshman running back Isaiah White, who has taken over the workhorse role since Stacey Bedell was lost for the season with a shoulder injury, carried five times for 47 yards in the drive and totaled 82 yards on 21 carries for the game.
"We came out fast, then slowed down and couldn't finish," said Bolden, who caught seven passes for 77 yards.
Reid-Segure forced a second Towson turnover with an interception at the SBU 45. The offense failed to capitalize but got another prime opportunity when Towson coach Rob Ambrose chose to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Tigers' 25, where Victor was stuffed for no gain.
As it turned out, that faux pas merely served to set up a Towson touchdown. Bednarski fumbled when he was sacked for an 8-yard loss by Max Tejada, and the Tigers' Lewis scooped the ball up with a clear field ahead and went 65 yards for a touchdown that cut Stony Brook's lead to 14-7.
"That was probably the pivotal part of the game," Priore said. "They got the momentum back."Bednarski added: "We've got to get points out of that, and I have to protect the ball. We've got to put together a complete game."