The Stony Brook football team, ranked No. 17 in the FCS Coaches Poll, is prepared for a showdown on Saturday night.
Coming off a 36-10 home victory over conference rival Richmond last week, the Seawolves will host No. 14 Villanova, which has allowed an average of 19.5 points per game in the first four games. The Wildcats also score 33.5 points per game.
As both sides enter at 3-1, coach Chuck Priore discussed the key factors of the matchup.
“They are very talented in all aspects of the game, offense, defense, special teams,” Priore said. “We’re going to have to control the energy level. Field position will be a huge factor, and our ability to create and stay away from turnovers will probably be the deciding factor.”
In terms of defending the run, Villanova has allowed a total of only 327 rushing yards this season — a clip of just 2.6 yards per carry. Stony Brook will look to break through with the dynamic running back combination of Jordan Gowins and Donald Liotine. Gowins has rushed for 510 yards and four touchdowns this season, and Liotine has compiled 377 yards and one touchdown.
“They’ve always been great against the run during my time here,” Priore said. “We have to execute what we do and take advantage of what we see in their schemes. We can’t be greedy. We have to see a 3- or 4-yard run as successful and not abandon the run.”
The Wildcats boast a quality secondary as well, surrendering an average of 189 passing yards. Defensive backs Elijah Trent and Christian Benford solidify the unit with two interceptions apiece, and could present issues for Stony Brook quarterback Joe Carbone, who’s completed just 44.4 percent of his passes this season for 475 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
“Joe’s playing with poise and focusing on the next play,” Priore said. “We’ve seen a lot of different coverages early in the year. As a quarterback it’s about having confidence and continuing to make plays.”
Villanova also features an immense threat out of the backfield in running back Aaron Forbes, who has a rushing average of 6.3 yards per carry. In total he's compiled 283 yards on 45 carries.
The Seawolves will attempt to slow down Villanova’s Zach Bednarczyk, who has had great success in 2018 with 1,139 passing yards, 11 touchdown passes and a completion percentage of 67.8 percent.
Bednarczyk primarily targets receivers Ryan Bell and Jarrett McClenton, who have 22 and 19 catches, respectively. Both have four touchdowns this season. McClenton’s has averaged 17 yards per reception.
“Bednarczyk is a huge catalyst,” Priore said. “He’s very athletic and spreads the ball around. They’re very balanced and we need to play responsible defensive football.”