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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Stony Brook football aims to wreck Richmond’s CAA opener

Defensive end Rodney Faulk rushes the passer against Delaware on Aug. 31. The Stony Brook football team’s defensive line has a good matchup versus Richmond this week. TIM GIORLANDO/THE STATESMAN

Still in search of its first win, the Stony Brook football team will look to turn its season around against another tough opponent.

The Seawolves (0-3, 0-2 CAA) were defeated convincingly last Saturday night 31-7 by one of the worst Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the nation: the Arkansas State Red Wolves (1-2). This Saturday, they will return to both Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) play to take on the Richmond Spiders (1-2) at 3:30 p.m. The Spiders come into this game having bested Delaware State 38-6 last Saturday for their first win of the season. The game will serve as Richmond’s conference opener. 

Despite their losing record, Richmond’s defense is off to a hot start. Through three games, the Spiders are third in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) in points allowed per game (22.7) and second in total yards per game (309). They own the fourth-best pass defense in the CAA at just 180.7 yards per game. The team also surrenders 128.3 rushing yards per game, which is sixth-best in the CAA.

Richmond’s defense is led by middle linebacker Tristan Wheeler, whose 37 total tackles co-leads the conference. Up front, Richmond defensive ends Zander Barnett and Marlem Louis have made plays off the edge. Barnett leads the team with 2.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. Louis has just one sack but has tallied 2.5 tackles for loss, forced two fumbles and recovered another.

Wheeler and company will look to thwart Stony Brook’s offense. Quarterback Casey Case had his best start to date, completing 21 of his 33 passes (63.6%) against Arkansas State — a big step up from his 43.3% completion percentage entering that game. It was also Case’s first game without an interception this season. Case threw just one touchdown pass last week but had two potential other ones dropped in the end zone.

Head coach Chuck Priore thinks the experience is improving Case’s comfortability.

“He’s learned the speed of the game,” Priore said in a press conference on Monday. “[He] needs to see various different defenses. He has settled in and I think he’ll be in the groove … we’re excited about that.”

Wide receiver Anthony Johnson has continued to be Case’s top passing option, as he leads Stony Brook with 212 yards on 16 receptions. Wide receivers Jayden Cook and Rahmon Hart Jr. have been the only ones to catch a touchdown pass from Case thus far, hauling in one apiece.

Priore likes what he has seen from Johnson and the connection he is building with Case.

“He’s got swagger,” Priore said. “He’s got the ability to get open [and] make somebody miss his space. He’s only getting better.”

The Seawolves’ offensive line had been one of their strongest components this season until a bad performance last week. After getting off to a great start, the team was missing right guard Niko Papic, which caused the whole line to flip around.

Right tackle Kollin Melendez was forced to move inside to right guard, and left tackle Jace Rodriguez swapped sides and played in Melendez’s place. Priore started true freshman Charles Allen III at left tackle. That offensive line combination struggled to the tune of four sacks allowed and paved the way for only 90 rushing yards. Priore confirmed that Papic will also miss Saturday’s contest with Richmond.

Stony Brook will be getting a boost in its backfield this weekend. Priore confirmed that running backs Johnny Martin and Roland Dempster will both be returning after missing last week’s matchup. Dempster – the Seawolves’ regular starter – has missed the last two games with an ankle injury after putting up 50 yards and a touchdown in 10 attempts on opening night. Martin leads the team in rushing yards per game (52.5) and rushing attempts (23) while averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

Stony Brook’s defense will look to play a more well-rounded game in order to keep the team in the game. In three games this season, the unit has allowed 34.3 points per game, which is the second-worst mark in the CAA. The Seawolves have allowed 486 yards per game, which is the worst mark in the CAA by far, as it is 83.7 yards more than the second-worst team.

However, Stony Brook’s defensive struggles stem from its secondary unit. The secondary has allowed a league-worst 284.3 passing yards per game and 9.1 yards per attempt. The defensive backs have not had an interception in each of the last two games after grabbing three against Delaware.

While the secondary has struggled, the Seawolves’ defensive front has shined. Their front seven’s 10 sacks are tied for the second-most in the CAA. Defensive end Andy Nwaoko and defensive tackle Dyshier Clary lead the unit with two sacks each. Clary has recorded at least a half-sack in all three games this year. Nwaoko also leads the team with three tackles for loss.

With a strong defensive front, Priore has been impressed by Clary’s pass-rushing display.

“He plays with a definite motor on Saturdays,” Priore said. “He competes until the end of the play.”

Before its last performance, Stony Brook had allowed just 130 rushing yards per game. However, against Arkansas State, the Seawolves allowed a staggering 345 rushing yards, including 197 in the first quarter. The disastrous performance sunk them to the fourth-worst run defense (201.7 yards per game) in the CAA. Stony Brook will get a more favorable matchup in that area this week against Richmond, whose 108.7 rushing yards per game are the worst in the conference.

If the Spiders are to turn it around on the ground, they will likely ride running backs Savon Smith and Milan Howard to success. Howard leads the team with 81 rushing yards on 15 attempts, good for a rate of 5.4 yards per carry. Smith is just three yards behind Howard for the team lead and rushed for 562 yards on 5.2 yards per rush in 2022.

The Spiders may stray away from the passing game due to their struggles on the offensive line. Richmond’s line has allowed 12 sacks — the third-most in the CAA — on 92 dropbacks.

Given the troubles of their offensive line, Richmond head coach Russ Huesman knows that this will be a tough matchup against the Seawolves’ defensive line.

“It will be a big challenge for us,” Huesman said in a press conference on Monday. “I know they’ll be able to rush the passer. It’ll be a challenge, no question about that.”

Richmond is led by quarterback Kyle Wickersham, who has thrown for just 513 yards in three games but does lead the league with a 76.6% completion rate. One of Wickersham’s primary targets is wide receiver Jerry Garcia Jr., who leads Richmond with 145 receiving yards on 10 catches. Wickersham’s other top target is wide receiver Nick DeGennaro, who leads the team in receptions (16) and is second on the team in receiving yards (139).

The Spiders come into the matchup having lost their last three matchups at LaValle since 2016. For Richmond, this is a must-win game if it wants to crack the top 25, as it is receiving votes in the FCS Coaches Poll.

Coming off the team’s first win of the season, Huesman is ready to compete with Stony Brook on all fronts.

“We’re going to have to play really, really well,” Huesman said. “They are … a physical football team. We’ve got to match that physicality. If we don’t match that physicality, we have no chance.”

Anthony DiCocco also contributed reporting.

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