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Stony Brook football looking to cash in on extra rest versus Fordham

Wide receiver Anthony Johnson catches a pass against Richmond on Sept. 23. Johnson leads the Stony Brook football team in catches and receiving yards this year. STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

Coming off an unexpected bye week, the Stony Brook football team will look to convert the extra rest into an upset win.

The Seawolves (0-5, 0-4 CAA) had their game against Morgan State scheduled for last Saturday canceled due to a shooting on the campus during the week. That gave them extra time to prepare for this Saturday, when they host the Fordham Rams (4-2, 1-1 Patriot) at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. Opening kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. The Rams began this year in the national top-25 and are currently receiving votes in both the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Coaches Poll and the Stats Perform FCS Top 25.

Offense has come easy for Fordham this season. Through six games, the Rams are second in the Patriot League in both points (34.2) and total yards per game (426.3). They do a good job staying on the field, as they have converted on 39 of their 85 third downs (45.9%) and eight of their 10 fourth-downs attempts.

Fordham’s offense is led by quarterback C.J. Montes, who has put together a spectacular season. Montes leads the Patriot League with 269.5 passing yards per game on a 63.9% completion rate. He leads the entire FCS with 17 touchdown passes and is yet to throw an interception this season.

The Rams own three of the Patriot League’s top-10 pass-catchers. Montes’ main target is wide receiver M.J. Wright, who leads the conference with 36 receptions and is second in the conference with 493 receiving yards. Wide receiver Garrett Cody ranks fifth with 28 grabs, and fellow wideout Mekai Felton’s 24 catches are tied for seventh-most. Cody is third in the conference with 417 receiving yards and tied for fourth with four receiving touchdowns. Felton and Wright co-lead the team and are tied for second in the conference with five receiving touchdowns apiece.

Fordham’s running game is centered around running back Julius Loughridge, who leads the team and is fourth in the Patriot League with 569 rushing yards on 5.3 yards per attempt. Loughridge has also rushed for five touchdowns and is fourth on the team with 15 catches. He has contributed another 136 yards and one score through the air. Montes himself contributes to the run game and has grossed 198 yards and a 4.7 yards per carry not including his sack yardage.

The Rams’ offensive line is their weakness, as they have allowed a conference-worst 19 sacks on 223 dropbacks.

Fordham’s strong offense will look to slice through a Stony Brook defense that has struggled all season long. After allowing 56 points in its most recent game at Maine, the Seawolves’ defense has allowed 35.8 points per game through five games, which is the worst mark in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA). Their 455.4 total yards allowed per game and 6.6 yards against per play are also the worst figures in the conference.

Stony Brook’s biggest downside on defense is its secondary. The unit is last in both passing yards per game (278) and yards per attempt (9.2). Statistically speaking, the Seawolves appear opportunistic, as their seven interceptions are tied for the third-most in the league. However, all seven picks came in just two games against Delaware (three) and Richmond (four) — the latter of whom were playing its backup and third-string quarterbacks.

Though Stony Brook’s secondary has limped through games, its defensive front has been solid. The Seawolves have allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per game in the CAA (177.4), but they surrendered 345 yards on the ground at Arkansas State — a Football Bowl Subdivision team. Outside of that game, the team has allowed just 135.5 rushing yards per game, which would be good for sixth-best in the CAA.

While the front seven have been able to limit the run game, they have struggled to make splash plays as of late. After tallying eight sacks in the team’s first two games, the Seawolves have racked up just five over their last three.

Stony Brook’s pass rush is led by defensive end Andy Nwaoko, who leads the team in tackles for loss (3.5) and sacks (2.5). Defensive tackle Dyshier Clary and outside linebacker Anthony Ferrelli are tied for second on the team with two sacks apiece. Middle linebacker Aidan Kaler quarterbacks the defense and is eighth in the CAA with 8.2 tackles per game.

As a replacement for injured outside linebacker A.J. Roberts, Ferrelli has impressed head coach Chuck Priore.

“Anthony’s stepped up and has had a great first half,” Priore said in a press conference on Monday. “He’s somebody we’ve seen [make things] happen on the defensive side of the ball.”

While the Seawolves’ defense has ranked toward the bottom of the CAA, Fordham’s defense has sat in the middle of the pack in the Patriot League. Through six games the Rams have allowed 25 points and 380.3 yards per game, which are the fourth-best marks in their seven-team conference.

Fordham’s defense has struggled up front. Through six games, its defensive front has the fewest sacks (four) in the Patriot League; three of which came in its first game of the season.

Fordham middle linebacker James Conway leads the team and is second in the Patriot League with 60 total tackles on the season. Outside linebacker Marc Pretto leads the Rams with 4.5 tackles for loss. Defensive end Matt Jaworski has four tackles for a loss and leads Fordham with two sacks.

Despite the lack of a pass rush, the Rams’ secondary has found some success. They co-lead the conference with four interceptions and are holding opposing quarterbacks to a 59.2% completion rate. Despite their flashes, they are also surrendering 240.2 passing yards per game and have allowed 15 touchdown passes this year.

Cornerback Nahil Perkins has been the star of the group with 34 tackles, an interception and eight pass breakups. Free safety Stephen Williams II has been good as well, racking up 28 tackles, a pick and three breakups. Cornerback Cameron Blair and strong safety Andrew Osmun round out the group and each have one interception to their names.

Leading the Seawolves’ offense is quarterback Casey Case, who will look to put together another strong performance. He had arguably his best start of the season against Maine, passing for a season-high 348 yards on a 59.5% completion rate.

As Case continues to improve, Priore thinks this is just the beginning for him.

“He’s progressed each week,” Priore said during a press conference on Monday, Oct. 2. “He’s starting to put up the stats that we will expect to have. If we can get the rest of the [offense] to play just a tad better around him … we have some good things to look forward to.”

Wide receiver Anthony Johnson has been Case’s primary target, leading Stony Brook with 24 receptions for 349 yards, which is the ninth-most in the CAA. Wide receiver Jayden Cook leads the team with three touchdown catches, two of which came against Maine.

As Stony Brook’s passing game has improved, its run game has struggled. Despite having depth at the position, the Seawolves’ 118 rushing yards per game and 3.9 yards per attempt are the fifth-worst marks in the CAA.

Lead running back Roland Dempster has dealt with an ankle injury, but will be fully healthy with the extra week of rest. Dempster has been limited to just 22 carries this year, but is averaging 4.8 yards per attempt and has scored a touchdown.

As Dempster has been integrated back into the lineup, running backs Shakhi Carson and Ross Tallarico have carried the load for Stony Brook. Carson has totaled 171 rushing yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry on a team-leading 42 rush attempts. Tallarico leads the Seawolves with 200 rushing yards and is yet to have a negative-yardage play, while his 6.9 yards per carry is sixth-best rate in the CAA.

Running back Johnny Martin will be inactive for several weeks due to a foot injury sustained against Richmond on Sept. 23.

Now in the second half of the season, Stony Brook is running out of time to find its first win. The team has dropped each of its last two meetings with Fordham.

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