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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Stony Brook football squares off with another winless foe

Middle linebacker Aidan Kaler (38) flexes his muscles after making a stop against Richmond on Saturday, Sept. 23. Kaler leads the Stony Brook football team with 36 total tackles this year. TIM GIORLANDO/THE STATESMAN

Still winless, the Stony Brook football team will look to find its first triumph of the season in a similar fashion to last year.

The Seawolves (0-4, 0-3 CAA) squandered their best opportunity to win a game this season last Saturday at home in a 20-19 defeat to the Richmond Spiders. This Saturday, they will head up to Orono, Maine to take on the Maine Black Bears (0-4, 0-2 CAA) at 3:30 p.m. The last time the two teams met up was Oct. 22, 2022, and Stony Brook pulled off a big rally to earn its first victory of the season on its homecoming.

Not much has gone right for Maine defensively to start the season. Coming into the matchup, the team sports the fifth-worst scoring defense (30 points allowed per game) and the fourth-worst total defense (397.8 yards per game) in the conference. The Black Bears’ Achilles’ heel has been their run defense. The unit has allowed the third-most rushing yards per game (203.5) and the second-most rushing touchdowns (10) in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA).

One aspect that Maine has shown promise in is pass defense. Maine’s secondary has surrendered just five passing touchdowns and 194.3 yards per game via the air, both of which rank seventh-best in the conference.

Despite their defensive woes, the Black Bears possess a few standouts. Maine middle linebacker Darius McKenzie has been all over the field this season, ranking seventh in the CAA with 34 total tackles. Defensive end Izaiah Henderson has been effective as well, as he sits in a three-way tie for seventh on the CAA’s tackle for loss leaderboard with 4.5. McKenzie and defensive end Xavier Holmes trail Henderson with three tackles for loss each.

Luckily for Maine, Stony Brook’s offense has had its fair share of early struggles. The team owns the third-worst scoring (13.3 yards per game), total (284.0 yards per game) and rushing (114.8 yards per game) offenses in the conference.

Although their rushing attack has not broken out yet, the Seawolves have a chance to do so this weekend. Running back Ross Tallarico leads the team with 165 rushing yards and is fourth in the CAA in yards per carry (7.9). He has not yet had a negative run this year. Along with Tallarico, running backs Roland Dempster — Stony Brook’s lead back — and Johnny Martin should be close to full health against Maine. Dempster and Martin have combined for the team’s only two rushing touchdowns on the year, and are each averaging over four yards per carry.

Following a rough start to the season, Stony Brook’s passing game has improved of late. Quarterback Casey Case has thrown for 375 yards and two touchdowns while completing 58.2% of his passes over the last two games. However, interceptions have plagued Case, as he leads the CAA with six picks this year.

Perhaps the brightest spot on offense for the Seawolves is wide receiver Anthony Johnson. As the team’s number one wideout, he ranks sixth in the conference in receiving yards (261) and leads the team with 19 catches. Johnson scored his first collegiate touchdown last week.

Similar to the Black Bears, Stony Brook has yet to find its footing defensively. The team sits dead last in the conference in total defense (441.3 yards allowed per game) while surrendering the third-most points per game (30.8). The Seawolves have allowed 241.3 passing yards per game and 200 rushing yards per game, which are the third and fifth-worst marks in the CAA, respectively.

Stony Brook’s strongest defensive aspect is its pass rush. The team’s front seven has totaled 12 sacks, which is the fourth most in the conference. Defensive tackle Dyshier Clary and defensive end Andy Nwaoko share the team lead with two sacks apiece. Middle linebacker Aidan Kaler has been Stony Brook’s premier defender, as his 36 tackles rank sixth in the conference.

Though the Seawolves’ secondary struggled early on, the unit has shown signs of life recently. In its last two matchups, Stony Brook has allowed just 252 passing yards and two passing touchdowns on just a 44.4% completion rate. The team also leads the conference with seven interceptions after grabbing three on opening night and four last week. Strong safety Nick Chimienti sits atop the CAA and is tied for second in the entire Football Championship Subdivision with three picks.

Head coach Chuck Priore credited his secondary’s turnaround to an increased familiarity with the play calling.

“I think we’re getting more comfortable with the system and the scheme,” Priore said in a press conference on Monday. “We had some kids that hadn’t been in the system, then learned the system and then it had to be changed, so I think they’re adapting to where we are. We’re making some plays, which is positive.”

With its secondary’s recent string of success, this matchup has potential to be a favorable one for Stony Brook, as the Black Bears’ passing game has not found their rhythm. Maine quarterback Derek Robertson has yet to throw a touchdown pass this season while averaging 150.5 passing yards per game. He has been picked off five times this year, trailing only Case on the CAA’s leaderboard. Wide receiver Jamie Lamson has been Robertson’s top target, hauling in 14 passes for 110 yards to lead the team.

Although Maine’s ground game is last in the CAA (102 rushing yards per game), running back Tristen Kenan has given the team hope. The true freshman ranks 10th in the conference in rushing yards per game (68.3) and has already run for three touchdowns. Along with his success on the ground, Kenan has made a difference as a receiver, tallying 83 yards on 11 receptions.

Priore had high praise for both Kenan and the Black Bears’ ability to develop him.

“He’s a good football player,” Priore said. “When freshmen are having the opportunity to do that, you know they did a good job at recruiting and developing him.”

With both teams still winless, Maine head coach Jordan Stevens expects a hard-fought battle between the two conference rivals.

“They’re a group that is playing with purpose,” Stevens said. “This is going to be a passionate group that comes up here ready to play and compete. We’re going to get their best.”

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About the Contributor
Anthony DiCocco
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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