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Who will win the eighth annual Golden Apple Trophy?

Quarterback Charlie McKee and running back Ross Tallarico celebrating Tallarico’s rushing touchdown on Saturday, Oct. 22. The Stony Brook football team will look for its first winning streak of the year at Albany on Saturday. CAMRON WANG/THE STATESMAN

Coming off of its first win of the season, the Stony Brook football team will look to ride its momentum into the Battle for the Golden Apple.

The Seawolves (1-6, 1-4 CAA) celebrated their homecoming by pulling off a 28-27 comeback victory over the Maine Black Bears on Saturday. The team is hoping to build off its great second half from that contest when they travel to Albany, N.Y. to take on the last-place Albany Great Danes. Like Stony Brook, the Great Danes are 1-6 overall this season but have yet to capture their first win against a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) opponent. Albany enters the contest on a three-game skid. 

Despite their horrific record, offense has not been a problem for the Great Danes this season. Their offense ranks fourth among CAA teams in both scoring and total yards. After putting up a measly 10 points in its season opener against Baylor, Albany scored at least 23 points in each of its next six games. The Seawolves’ defense must step up in a big way to contain Albany’s high-powered offense. They are currently the third-worst scoring defense and fourth-worst total defense in the conference.

Led by star rookie quarterback Reese Poffenbarger, the Great Danes sit atop the CAA in passing offense, averaging 293.3 passing yards per game. Poffenbarger and the Great Danes like to air the ball out, as they rank fourth in pass attempts and second-to-last in rush attempts. They have done so with both explosiveness and efficiency. Poffenbarger is completing 66.0 percent of his passes for a conference-leading 2,053 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also only has one interception on the season, which came last week in a loss to Villanova.

“He’s a terrific football player,” head coach Chuck Priore said of Poffenbarger during the weekly CAA coaches’ press conferences. “He’s really dominated the games he’s played that I’ve watched. He’s efficient, he’s athletic, he’s helping them score a lot of points.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Stony Brook currently ranks dead-last in the CAA in passing defense, allowing 271.9 passing yards per game along with 17 touchdown passes. Last Saturday, they allowed over 300 passing yards to Maine quarterback Joe Fagnano without recording an interception. If the Seawolves want to have a shot at winning, they must limit the damage that Poffenbarger and his receivers do. Wide receivers Thomas Greaney and Roy Alexander are having big years, with Greaney ranking third in receptions in the CAA and tied for first in touchdowns.

Luckily for the Seawolves, Albany is at the bottom of the CAA in points allowed, giving up 39.7 points per game. The Seawolves rank last in offense in the CAA, putting up 12.9 points per game, but are coming off of a season-high scoring output. Albany’s poor defense could present a perfect opportunity for the team to build off of its strong offensive performance from last Saturday. 

Though Albany has a very good rookie quarterback, it appears as though Stony Brook may as well. True freshman quarterback Charlie McKee had a very strong performance against Maine, earning him FedEx Ground FCS National Freshman of the Week honors. Through only two-and-a-half games, McKee is completing 65.1 percent of his passes for 678 yards and six touchdowns with just two picks.

Despite his performance, the run game may still take center stage against Albany. The Great Danes’ rushing defense has been dreadful, giving up 199.7 rushing yards per game on average and an astounding 5.6 yards per carry. Unfortunately for Stony Brook, running back Jayden Cook will be inactive due to a high-ankle sprain he suffered in the fourth quarter last Saturday. Star running back Ty Son Lawton’s status is not confirmed, either. It will likely be Ross Tallarico playing snaps in the backfield for Stony Brook.

Stony Brook and Albany met twice in 2021; once in the spring season and once in the fall. The Seawolves won both Golden Apple Trophies by scores of 21-7 and 36-14, respectively. 

Though both teams have been dwelling near the bottom of the CAA standings this season, the bragging rights of owning the trophy is still meaningful to Stony Brook.

“It’s gone back and forth here and there,” Priore said. “We hope to keep it.”

The eighth Battle for the Golden Apple will kick off at 1 p.m. this Saturday in New York’s capital city. The winner of the game will avoid last place in the CAA standings.

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About the Contributor
Anthony DiCocco, Assistant Sports Editor
Anthony DiCocco is an Assistant Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a sophomore majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports derives from years of playing dek hockey and watching his favorite teams, the New York Islanders, New York Mets and New York Jets. He is the beat reporter for Stony Brook’s hockey and softball teams. He has also covered football, men’s lacrosse and men’s soccer. He was previously the Editor-in-Chief of his high school newspaper the Devil’s Tale at Plainedge High School. He is a local product from North Massapequa, N.Y.
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