– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
STONY BROOK, NY — The optimism that the Stony Brook Seawolves football team emanated when it arrived in the locker room after the first 30 minutes of one of the school’s biggest-ever football games was almost in direct contrast to what the scoreboard had read throughout the entire first half. What the scoreboard read at the end of the game confirmed the Seawolves’ self-assurance, along with establishing the team as one of the top programs in the Football Championship Subdivision.
After trailing 21-0 late in the second quarter, Stony Brook scored 29 unanswered points and, late in the fourth quarter, thwarted a game-tying two-point conversion as the No. 18 Seawolves defeated a traditional FCS power in No. 13 Villanova 29-27 at Kenneth P. LaVelle Stadium in primetime on Saturday night.
“I’m really proud of this team. When I walked into the locker room at halftime you would have thought we were winning 21-0 nothing,” Stony Brook head coach Chuck Priore said. “That is a little bit of their belief of being successful. This group has won quite a few games the last few years and it is contagious now.”
The belief shown in tonight’s game from Stony Brook needed to be abundant after a turnover on its first drive in Villanova territory opened the floodgates for the Wildcats to score touchdowns on three of their first four drives to open up a 21-0 lead. All phases of the game helped in the Seawolves’ comeback; Quarterback Joe Carbone threw for three touchdowns, two of them to fifth-year wide receiver Julius Wingate, while the defense gave Stony Brook the lead for good in the final minute of the third quarter on a safety.
The second half started when Stony Brook forced a turnover on the kickoff, immediately snatching momentum to start the half after being down 21-6 at intermission.
“We all agreed as a team that no one was ever going to break us,” Carbone said. “We didn’t break and we regrouped and went out there and kept playing. Football is a four-quarter game and it came down to the fourth quarter.”
Wingate, who came into the contest with one career touchdown, doubled that total tonight, with his first score coming from a 15-yard pass from Carbone with 1:51 remaining in the second quarter to cut Villanova’s lead to 21-6.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, Villanova wide receiver Josh McGrigg fumbled on the return as Elijah Duff forced and recovered the fumble for the Seawolves. Eight plays later, running back Donald Liotine scored on a run from three yards out to make it 21-13 early in the third quarter.
Stony Brook’s defense forced a three-and-out on Villanova’s next drive, and the Seawolves tied it on their next offensive drive on a 26-yard scoring strike from Carbone to Wingate. Carbone then found receiver Donavin Washington for a successful two-point conversion to tie the game.
Stony Brook completed the comeback and took the lead late in the third when defensive lineman John Haggart forced Villanova quarterback Zach Bednarczyk into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone, resulting in a safety and the Seawolves’ first lead of the game at 23-21 late in the third quarter.
“Our energy changed at halftime. We knew that we could run with (Villanova) and we knew we had to change our energy,” Haggart said. “That is what we did and everyone was rallying and making plays.”
Stony Brook opened up its lead to 29-21 late in the fourth on Carbone’s third touchdown pass, finding tight end Cal Daniels from five yards out. The PAT was missed, however, giving Villanova an opportunity to tie the game on a final drive — and the Wildcats almost did.
With backup quarterback Jack Schetelich in the game, Villanova drove 75 yards on 10 plays in 3:17, as wide receiver Jarrett McClenton’s 25-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown with 56 seconds remaining cut its deficit to two. However, Schetelich’s pass on the two-point conversion was knocked down by defensive back EJ Fineran.
Schetelich was 5-for-6 for 56 yards in relief of Bednarczyk, who went 15-for-23 for 180 yards and a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Todd Summers to open the scoring in the first quarter. A third player threw a touchdown for Villanova, as wide receiver Adeyemi DaSilva took a backward lateral pass from Bednarczyk before throwing a 56-yard touchdown pass to fellow receiver Changa Hodge for a 21-0 lead with 5:32 left in the second quarter.
Running back Aaron Forbes, who ran for 69 yards on 11 carries, had a two-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday night’s game, with all photos taken A Lot of Sports Talk senior photographer Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are currently 37 pictures in total.