Stony Brook got off to a fast start last year, winning five of its first seven games and earning a 4-0 record in Colonial play midway through October.
It was right around then that an unwanted visitor infiltrated the locker room and derailed the rest of the Seawolves’ season.
“We were worried about where we should have been ranked — the teams we beat, where they were,” senior wide receiver Ray Bolden said Friday during media day. “All the talk in the locker room was everything besides between the lines.”
Stony Brook lost its next game to New Hampshire, 43-14. From there, their problems snowballed. They lost their next three games by a combined 18 points, ending the season with a 5-6 record and a bitter taste.
“I think we didn’t understand that not being successful for a little bit of time, you have to put that away, put it in the closet and come out and think differently,” head coach Chuck Priore said. “I just don’t think we did a good job of handling the adversity.”
So, the Seawolves went to work this offseason to fix that. Bolden called practices “intense” as the team focused on refining situational drills, adding new wrinkles to a run-heavy offense led by former Hansen Award winner Stacey Bedell (698 rushing yards, 10 TDs in 2016) and sharpening a defense that allowed the third-fewest yards per game in the FCS last season (274.2).
“It’s really good to have this certain energy that we have this year’s camp that I felt we haven’t had in my three years here,” Bolden said. “Coaches are really, really really on us about attention to details and the smaller things.”
It helps that this year’s team returns largely intact. When the Seawolves open their season Sept. 2 at South Florida, their roster will consist of 19 seniors, 17 of which are in their fifth or sixth year of college football — and all of which took something from the second-half swoon.
Now, if that unwelcome guest returns this season, the Seawolves believe they’ll be ready.
“We know we’re going to face adversity some time,” said senior left tackle Timon Parris, a Floral Park native and preseason STATS FCS All-American. “At some point, it’s going to happen. So we’re just going to prepare for it and we’re just going to understand that when it happens, we’re going to have to fight back and be able to overcome it.”