Finish. It's a simple concept that so far has eluded Stony Brook's football team in excruciating fashion this season. For the better part of 59 minutes Saturday night, the Seawolves were in position to get it right against nationally ranked William & Mary in front of a record LaValle Stadium crowd of 11,301.
A brilliant stand by the Seawolves' No. 1-ranked FCS defense led to a go-ahead touchdown run by Stacey Bedell with 1:12 left in their Colonial Athletic Association opener. But it all came unraveled with a litany of last-minute mistakes as the Tribe tied it with a long touchdown pass with 25 seconds left in regulation and won a 27-21 decision on Mikal Abdul-Saboor's 13-yard scoring run in overtime.
"It was a tough loss," coach Chuck Priore said. "We did not finish . . . We played a good game. We showed we're able to compete. At the end of the day, their kid made a play that tied the game. In overtime, we had a holding penalty and a blocked field goal, and the better team won."
As well as Stony Brook (1-4) has played on defense all season, the Seawolves have been prone to giving up the big play. They did it again after Bedell, who rushed for 102 yards on 18 carries, broke two tackles on his 33-yard run for a 21-14 lead.
Facing second-and-11 with 34 seconds showing, Tribe quarterback Steve Cluley threw an out to Sean Ballard near the right sideline. There appeared to be confusion in the Seawolves' secondary before the play. Safety Naim Cheeseboro, who had a team-high 11 tackles, tried to get out to Ballard but missed the tackle as he went 52 yards to tie the game at 21.
"There was a misunderstanding, a late communication with the corner," Cheeseboro said. "As far as that missed tackle, I didn't execute the play. That was strictly on me."
William & Mary (4-1), which is ranked 12th and 13th in the two FCS polls, actually had a chance to win in regulation when SBU's Anthony Anderson fumbled the kickoff at his own 35. But the Tribe's John Carpenter was just short on a 51-yard field-goal attempt as time expired.
Stony Brook had the first possession from the 25-yard line in OT, and Bedell broke a 9-yard run on first down. But a holding penalty on guard Armani Garrick stalled the drive before Przemyslaw Popek's 36-yard field-goal attempt was blocked.
When it was the Tribe's turn, Stony Brook defensive end Victor Ochi stopped Abdul-Saboor's third-down run but was called for a face-mask penalty that gave William & Mary a first down at the 12. One play later, Abdul-Saboor, who carried 26 times for 116 yards, scored his second TD of the game to end it.
After alternating quarterbacks John Kinder and Conor Bednarski for four games, Priore settled on Bednarski as the starter and was rewarded with a 14-0 first-quarter lead. Bednarski, who completed 16 of 29 passes for 189 yards, hit three first-down passes on the opening 80-yard drive for a 9-yard TD run by Marcus Coker, then threw a short out that Adrian Coxson (seven catches for 124 yards) turned into an 83-yard touchdown.
William & Mary rallied to tie the game at 14 on a 2-yard run by Abdul-Saboor and a two-point conversion. But with a first down at its own 20 near the end of regulation, the Tribe lost 15 yards on three plays before the Seawolves took over at the WMU 46, leading to Bedell's go-ahead TD.
"We played with our heart," said cornerback Davonte Anderson, whose 13th career interception saved a first-quarter TD. "We're going to learn from our mistakes and come back strong."