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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 kicks off road trip at No. 19 Villanova

Running back Roland Dempster rushes for a touchdown against New Hampshire on Saturday, Oct. 21. Dempster will look to get things going for the Stony Brook football team at Villanova tomorrow. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

With the season winding down, the Stony Brook football team is officially in danger of its first-ever winless season.

This Saturday, the Seawolves (0-7, 0-5 CAA) will head to Pennsylvania to face the No. 19 Villanova Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 CAA). Opening kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. In addition to being ranked in the Stats Perform Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Top 25 poll, Villanova is also receiving votes in the FCS Coaches Poll.

It has been a dreadful season for Stony Brook’s defense, as it ranks last in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) in both scoring defense (35.7 points per game) and total defense (447.6 yards per game). The Seawolves’ secondary has been their biggest downside. The unit is allowing the most passing yards per game (272.1) on the second-most yards per attempt (8.5) in the CAA. Their seven interceptions are tied for the sixth-most in the CAA, but they have not picked off an opposing quarterback since they had four against Richmond on Sept. 23.

While Stony Brook’s secondary has been lackluster all season, its defensive front has gone quiet as of late. Although the Seawolves’ 17 sacks are the sixth-most in the conference, they have just five over their last three games after tallying 12 through their first four. The pass rush is led by defensive end Rodney Faulk, who leads Stony Brook with three sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss. Defensive end Andy Nwaoko narrowly trails him with 2.5 sacks.

Stony Brook has also struggled to stop the run. They have allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per game in the CAA on 4.5 yards per attempt.

The Seawolves’ defense will likely labor again this week against a strong Villanova offense. Through seven games, the Wildcats are averaging 28.1 points per game, which is the fifth-most in the conference. The Wildcats are also fifth in the CAA with 406.1 total yards per game. They have been able to stay on the field as well, converting on 43.2% of their third down attempts and six of their 10 fourth down attempts.

Villanova’s biggest strength on offense comes from its run game. Running back DeeWil Barlee leads the group with 403 rushing yards and averages 6.2 yards per carry. Fellow running back Jalen Jackson has rushed for 396 yards on the ground on an average of 6.4 yards per carry. Barlee has run for four touchdowns, while Jackson has added another three.

Right behind them is running back T.D. Ayo-Durojaiye, whose five rushing touchdowns are second on the team, only behind quarterback Connor Watkins’ six. Ayo-Durojaiye also averages 6.0 yards per rush.

Altogether, the Wildcats’ run game is second in the conference, averaging 223.7 yards per game on 5.4 yards per carry.

Head coach Chuck Priore’s main priority is limiting chunk plays from the Wildcats’ explosive backfield.

“We got to control the big plays,” Priore said in a press conference on Monday. “We’ve got to put ourselves in the situation to … not allow them just to run the football.”

Passing is not Villanova’s strong suit, as Watkins has thrown for just 1,262 yards in seven games, the fourth-worst mark amongst qualified quarterbacks in the CAA. Additionally, Watkins has thrown just eight touchdown passes, which is tied for the second-fewest in the conference.

The Wildcats’ lack of passing could be in part because of their offensive line. They have allowed 20 sacks, which is the fourth-most in the CAA and the most among all teams that have played only seven games.

While Villanova’s offense has been strong overall, its defense has been stronger. The Wildcats have allowed the second-fewest points per game (18.7) and the second-fewest scrimmage yards per game (284.6) in the conference. They do a great job of getting off the field, surrendering just a 32.6% third down conversion rate.

Running the ball against Villanova has proven to be a bad idea. The Wildcats have held their opponents to just 97.1 rushing yards per game and 3.1 yards per attempt, both of which are the second-best marks in the CAA.

Villanova’s defensive front has improved in terms of its ability to make splash plays. The Wildcats sit at seventh in the CAA with 15 sacks, including eight over their last three games. Middle linebacker Shane Hartzell and outside linebacker Danny Abraham each have three sacks to co-lead their team. Outside linebacker Brendan Bell and defensive end Jake Reichwein co-lead the team with 6.5 tackles for loss each.

Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante has been impressed with what Bell has brought to the field this season.

“He plays the game the way you want guys to play the game,” Ferrante said. “[He] has a real good knack of reading [offenses]. He has that allusiveness to get around a guard and … does a good job maneuvering and controlling his body.”

The Wildcats’ secondary has also been excellent, allowing just 187.1 passing yards per game on 6.9 yards per attempt, which is the fifth-best mark in the CAA. Cornerbacks Tyrell Mims, Jalen Goodman and Devon Marshall patrol the perimeter, while fellow cornerback Isas Waxter mans the slot. Free safety Ty Trinh and strong safety Elijah Glover are the last line of defense.

While the Wildcats’ secondary has done a good job limiting pass yardage, they have struggled to get takeaways. Their four interceptions are tied for the second-lowest in the CAA. Mims, Goodman, Trinh and Waxter all have one interception each this year.

The Seawolves’ offense has improved in recent weeks, but has still been weak overall. Their 14.6 points per game is the second-worst mark in the CAA, and their 321.1 total yards per contest is fourth-worst.

Stony Brook’s offense is led by quarterback Casey Case, who will look to continue his string of impressive performances. In his last three games, Case is averaging 282 passing yards per game on a 61% completion rate with six touchdown passes.

Case’s primary target has been wide receiver Anthony Johnson, who leads Stony Brook with 39 receptions and is fifth in the CAA with 537 receiving yards. Wide receiver Jayden Cook has connected with Case in the end zone the most, as he leads the team with three touchdown receptions.

Johnson has shined throughout his rookie season and Priore is pleased by what he has seen thus far.

“He finds himself open,” Priore said. “What he and Casey have going is going to be something special.”

As the Seawolves’ pass game has continued to look serviceable, their run game has continued to struggle. Despite lead running backs Roland Dempster and Johnny Martin recently getting healthy, the Seawolves still average only 96.4 rushing yards per game, which is the second-worst mark in the conference. With a healthy backfield last week, they only managed to put together 70 total rushing yards without counting sack yardage.

Coming off a bye week, Ferrante is ready for what Stony Brook will bring and expects his team to be ready come Saturday.

“[Stony Brook] is going to play physical,” Ferrante said. “Each week, [we] try to get to 1-0. We just have to hope that we can go in there and not only match their intensity but [also] play good fundamental football.”

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