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Golden Apple returns to Long Island as Stony Brook trounces Undercuffler-less Albany for first win

The Stony Brook football team in a game against Villanova on March 7. The team won in a game against Albany on March 27. KATHERINE PROCACCI/THE STATESMAN

It had been 518 days since the Stony Brook football team last won a game and 1,239 days since the Seawolves last topped their adversaries from the capital of New York. On Saturday, March 27, the team was able to put behind its recent struggles to convincingly defeat the Albany Great Danes 21-7 on the road for its first victory of the season.

The Battle for the Golden Apple, always an intensely-fought contest, went the Seawolves’ way for the first time since 2017. Stony Brook’s sideline was fired up throughout the second half, and the emotion of the rivalry was also seen in both teams’ chippy behavior following plays.

In 2018, the Seawolves, ranked No. 10 at the time, lost to a Great Danes team who was winless in conference on a last-second field goal. Then in 2019, Stony Brook fell down 24-0 by the second quarter only to see its comeback attempt fall short. Being able to avenge those near misses and bring the Golden Apple back to Long Island fueled the team in beating a Great Danes squad that was ranked earlier this season.

Shortly before kickoff, Albany announced that redshirt-sophomore quarterback Jeff Undercuffler, who set program records with a 3,543-passing yard, 41-touchdown season in 2019, would not play on Saturday because of what was later revealed to be a rib injury. Without one of the best signal callers in the Colonial Athletic Association, the Great Danes dipped into their third-string reserve at the position and turned the ball over four times to negate its total yard and time of possession advantage.

“We forced turnovers,” head coach Chuck Priore said in a press release. “We made a lot of third-down stops. We played the game physical up front.”

Fellow redshirt sophomore Braeden Zenelovic earned his first career start under center but was pulled from the game in the third quarter after inefficiently completing nine of 20 passes for 69 yards and throwing two interceptions. His second pick, which was thrown directly at freshman defensive back Nick Chimienti, would be the final snap he took.

Stony Brook immediately capitalized on the takeaway. Redshirt-senior quarterback Tyquell Fields found redshirt-freshman tight end Cal Redman in the end zone for his second passing touchdown of the season to put the Seawolves up 14-0. It was Stony Brook’s first multi-possession lead of the spring 2021 season, four games in.

Freshman Joey Carino replaced Zenelovic and instantly gave Albany momentum on his first career drive. He showed off his legs, running for 40 yards in the series and finishing with a nine-yard touchdown pass.

After forcing a Seawolves three-and-out, the momentum appeared to be on the Great Danes’ side, but Carino’s second drive ended when he scrambled right and fumbled on the hit. Stony Brook needed just one play for redshirt-sophomore running back Ty Son Lawton to reach paydirt from four yards out, restoring its 14-point lead.

Lawton, who came off a career-high 134-yard afternoon against Maine last week, passed the century mark for a second straight game with 114 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns. He carved through a depleted Albany defensive line that saw multiple starters suffer injuries during the game.

Stony Brook also had key players depart the game. Redshirt-senior defensive back TJ Morrison, a starting safety, hurt his hamstring on the first play, while senior linebacker Keirston Johnson was injured in the second quarter after recording three tackles. Priore gave credit to freshman Tyler King and redshirt sophomore Chris Campbell for their play in Johnson’s absence, with Campbell already picking off Zenelovic’s tipped pass.

“The other two linebackers had to play every rep of the game,” he said. “We had some guys who just kept stepping up. It was good to see.”

Without the ability to successfully move the ball through the air, Great Danes senior running back Karl Mofor rushed for 148 yards, the most that the Seawolves’ stout run defense had allowed against a single player this season.

Fields, playing with a sprained ankle he sustained in the first quarter, attempted just 16 passes and completed less than half of them for 58 yards. The Seawolves had more opportunities to score that they did not convert; after Zenelovic’s first interception set Fields up in the red zone, he missed open receivers on two straight plays. Redshirt-freshman kicker Angelo Guglielmello’s subsequent 38-yard attempt was low and blocked.

Fields was further rejected on a 4th-and-inches QB sneak at the Albany 11-yard line in the third quarter, a drive which started because redshirt-sophomore defensive lineman Makye Smith forced a Mofor fumble 18 seconds into the second half.

After his missed kick, Guglielmello was replaced by redshirt freshman Mike Boyle, who made all three point-after attempts. It is unknown if Boyle will start at kicker next week, but Guglielmello is 1-for-3 on field goals and 2-for-4 on PATs this season.

Stony Brook has a bye next week but will remain on the road to take on the New Hampshire Wildcats on April 10. But by winning the Battle for the Golden Apple, the Seawolves were able to knock Albany down in the standings to the same 1-3 record as theirs.

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