The first words out of Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore's mouth when he sat down for his news conference after the Seawolves' 19-16 loss to Connecticut Saturday afternoon at Rentschler Field were: "I've got a headache.''
Not surprising. An old football adage holds that if you're using two quarterbacks, you really don't have one. So when Priore literally began alternating starter John Kinder with backup Conor Bednarski from play to play in the second half against the Huskies, it said everything about the problem he faces.
Priore was excited when Kinder, who starred at Lawrence High, chose to transfer from Syracuse for the final season of his eligibility. But after sitting on the Orange bench for four years and getting into only four games on special teams, Kinder finds himself searching for the old high school magic.
He faltered badly in the opening 13-7 loss to Bryant, and although he had a few more good moments against UConn, Kinder was on the field for only three first-down plays, completed 4 of 10 passes for 68 yards and rushed for 17 yards.
Bednarski was on the field for the other six first downs, including five on the Seawolves' lone touchdown drive of 88 yards that ended with a 14-yard pass to tight end Will Tye. Bednarski completed 8 of 19 passes for 128 yards.
Asked about the difficulty of searching for a starting quarterback, Priore said, "It's not difficult. They're great kids. We're just playing football. There's no egos attached to it, no egos for the coaching staff, no egos for the players. They're here to win the game. There is no quarterback controversy.''
Really? Does that mean he reached a decision? "No, it means I [said] both weeks that both kids are going to play," Priore said. "It's going to happen again next week."
The pickings get a little easier next Saturday with the Seawolves (0-2) searching for their first win against American International, a successful Division II school. Then SBU makes a long road trip to North Dakota of the Big Sky for its final non-conference game before opening Colonial Athletic Association play against nationally ranked William & Mary.
By then, the four-game audition should be over and Priore should settle on a regular quarterback. "Yeah,'' he said, "that would be our goal.''
The leader at the halfway point has to be Bednarski, a redshirt junior who spent all of last season learning the offense. That gives him a significant advantage over Kinder, who shifted to wide receiver last season at Syracuse when it became clear he wasn't going to play again at quarterback.
In fairness, quarterback isn't the only problem on the offense. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Armani Garrick has committed several drive-killing penalties in the first two games. The offensive line as a whole had trouble preventing penetration by UConn's defense, resulting in only 104 yards rushing.
Running back Marcus Coker made his 2014 debut after missing all but the first two games last season because of an abdominal injury that required surgery and the opener this year because of a disciplinary suspension. He was a far cry from the power back at Iowa who was second in Big Ten rushing as a sophomore in 2011, carrying 12 times for 21 yards.
The Seawolves' saving grace has been a superbly physical and athletic defense that has one of SBU's three touchdowns this season. But Priore is worried that his defenders already are getting worn down because the offense can't stay on the field.
Maybe Bednarski began to change that against UConn. He got Tye involved with four completions to the athletic tight end for 76 yards, including the 14-yard TD, and three of wide receiver Jahrie Level's five catches were on passes from Bednarski.
"The team definitely wants me to be a playmaker, and I was ready," Tye said. "From the first game to the second game, we passed for a lot more yards. It was time. Two games down, we're not happy about it. But this was a much better game than the first game."
Asked if the offense made enough progress to generate some optimism about the immediate future, Tye said, "There's no way to go but up, definitely.''