With two weeks to stew over and recuperate from a heartbreaking loss on a last-second field goal at James Madison on Oct. 27, Stony Brook returned from its bye week and delivered its stingiest defensive performance of the season.
Senior running back Donald Liotine rushed for 170 yards on 27 carries — his sixth game over the 100 mark this season — and the Seawolves’ defense nearly posted its first shutout since 2013 with a smothering 17-3 victory over Delaware on a blustery Saturday in front of 6,667 at LaValle Stadium.
Stony Brook, which came in ranked No. 12 in the country in the Stats FCS Poll (one spot below Delaware), improved to 5-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association and 7-3 overall to solidify the likelihood of a second straight FCS postseason berth with one regular-season game remaining next week at Albany.
“We had two weeks with a bitter taste in our mouths with our loss to JMU, but I think the kids handled the two weeks correctly and played with a great focus,” said Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore, who received a two-year contract extension last week through 2022. “I thought our defense, specifically in the first half, was unbelievable.”
Heavy winds wreaked havoc on the game plans and kicking games for both teams throughout; the Seawolves bypassed field-goal attempts and went for it on fourth down twice in each half in Delaware territory. They turned the ball over on downs three times under those scenarios, but senior quarterback Joe Carbone connected for a touchdown on one of them, finding senior wide receiver Donavin Washington for a 27-yard scoring strike on fourth-and-8 for a 10-0 lead barely five minutes into the second half.
Stony Brook had snapped a scoreless tie with an effective 10-play, 65-yard drive resulting in a 26-yard field goal by senior kicker Alex Lucansky on the final play before halftime.
“I was so excited to go for it on the fourth downs. It was really windy, their kicker missed a couple of kicks, so you knew it’d be tough to kick a field goal,” Carbone said. “We came out and executed at a high level when we needed to.”
As Carbone mentioned, Delaware kicker Frank Raggo missed one field-goal attempt wide right and clanked another off the right upright in the first half, even if his 28-yarder with 11:18 remaining in the fourth quarter prevented Stony Brook from completing its first shutout since Sept. 7, 2013, at Rhode Island.
Stony Brook’s defense registered four sacks, an interception and held Delaware to 197 total yards, allowing only the three points on four red-zone opportunities.
“We like it when our backs are against the wall, that’s been kind of our niche,” said senior linebacker Noah McGinty, who made nine tackles. “We want that pressure and came up big today.”
Stony Brook, which finished the regular season unbeaten at home with a 5-0 mark, took most of the first half to get its vaunted running game — 206 yards per game — untracked. But Liotine, a Medford native, ripped off 118 yards over the final two quarters, including a 33-yard rumble up the middle for a 17-3 lead with 5:27 remaining. St. Anthony’s product Jordan Gowins chipped in 83 yards on 19 carries.
“We adjusted some things, I think our two running-back factor kind of kicked in,” said Liotine, who went over 1,000 yards for the season. “We kind of wore them down ... Our O-line came out firing, and we just beat them down and ran them over.”