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Football suffers third straight CAA loss against Wildcats

Junior running back James Kenner (28) rushed for 113 yards on 26 carries in Saturday's loss against UNH. He is the first SB player to rush for 100 yards since senior Marcus Coker rushed for 115 yards against Buffalo on Sept. 14. [YOON SEO NAM/THE STATESMAN]
Junior running back James Kenner (28) rushed for 113 yards on 26 carries in Saturday’s loss against UNH. He is the first SB player to rush for 100 yards since senior Marcus Coker rushed for 115 yards against Buffalo on Sept. 14. [YOON SEO NAM/THE STATESMAN]
The Stony Brook football team failed to generate much with their passing attack, and could not keep up with the high powered New Hampshire offense, in their 31-13 loss on Saturday. Two late touchdown receptions by receiver Justin Mello would break the game open for the Wildcats, after the Seawolves were able to cut the score to 19-13 in the third quarter.

“We did some things offensively that did not allow us to score points,” head coach Chuck Priore said. “Against this team, you’ve got to score points. We competed, but we need to get better.”

The loss drops Stony Brook to a 3-4 overall record on the season, and a 1-3 conference record. New Hampshire, who has made the playoffs each of its last nine seasons, moved to 4-3 on the season, with a 3-1 record in CAA play.

The Seawolves played a sloppy first three quarters, yet still found themselves within striking distance late in the third. With 3:33 remaining in the quarter, senior quarterback Lyle Negron found junior tight end Will Tye for an 8-yard touchdown pass, to cut New Hampshire’s lead to just six.

But, the Wildcats responded on their next drive, going 75 yards on nine plays to score a touchdown before the end of the quarter. Quarterback Sean Goldrich delivered a 15-yard pass to Mello, to finish off the drive, and make it a two-score game.

Then with 11:20 remaining in the fourth quarter, Goldrich would connect with Mello again, this time for a 36-yard touchdown pass. Mello put together an impressive effort, catching eight passes for 110 yards, and three touchdowns.

Stony Brook struggled to get anything going through the air, as they finished with just 129 passing yards.

Negron, who has been dealing with an injury in his throwing shoulder, was off target for much of the day. He went 9-of-24, with a touchdown, and two interceptions in the game.

“I’m sure (Negron) won’t make any excuses, but he’s not 100 percent,” Priore said. “But, we’re gonna play with him, and he’s a competitor and a winner.”

On their first possession of the game, the Seawolves were able to drive down the field to the New Hampshire 3-yard line. But, they were forced to settle for a field goal, after Negron failed to connect on end zone passes to Tye and senior wideout Malcolm Eugene.

The Wildcats would first get on the board in the game with 5:13 remaining in the first, thanks to a Stony Brook special teams miscue. Long snapper Kevin Fennell snapped the ball over the head of punter Nick Ferrara and out of the end zone for a safety, to make it a 3-2 game.

Then on New Hampshire’s ensuing possession, the Wildcats would find themselves with a 3rd and 21 attempt at their own 28-yard line. Goldrich then delivered a key 23-yard first down rush, to keep the drive alive.

Five plays later Goldrich would find Mello for a 23-yard touchdown pass, to make it a 9-3 New Hampshire lead.

Early in the second quarter the Stony Brook punt team would once again have issues, as Chris Setian was able to block a Ferrara punt, to give the Wildcats the ball at midfield.

New Hampshire would take advantage of the mistake, putting together a seven play, 51-yard drive, for a touchdown. Setian would finish what he started, capping the drive with a 1-yard rush, to give his team a 16-3 lead.

The game looked as if it was ready to get out of hand late in the second quarter, when Negron threw an interception to Nick Cefalo, to give the Wildcats the ball at SBU’s 31-yard line. But, the Stony Brook defense came up big, forcing a three-and-out, and not giving up any points.

The defense kept the Seawolves in the game most of the way, against a New Hampshire offense that coming into the day, led the CAA in total offense (480.7 yards/game). But, when Stony Brook made the game close late in the third quarter, the Wildcats offense elevated their game, putting together a pair of back-to-back impressive drives.

“There were moments in the game where we had them,” linebacker Reggie Francklin said. “We have to handle our business, and stop making mistakes.”

The Seawolves allowed 336 yards of total offense, the lowest amount given up by a New Hampshire opponent this season. The defense also recorded a season high four sacks.

Junior running back James Kenner put together a strong day, rushing for 113 yards on 26 carries. He is the first Stony Brook player to rush for 100 yards since Marcus Coker rushed for 115 yards earlier this season against Buffalo.

“The O-line did an awesome job,” Kenner said. “We did everything that we pretty much could in executing and driving down the field. Just finishing, and scoring points is where there’s improving we got to do.”

The Seawolves now have four games remaining, and must win all of them in order to have a chance at the FCS playoffs. It takes a minimum of 7 wins against Division I teams to be eligible for the 24-team tournament.

But Priore says he plans on taking things one game at a time. When asked what it will take for his team to bounce back next week, he replied “hard work and focus”.

Stony Brook will try to break a three-game conference losing streak, when they hit the road to take on Maine this Saturday. Kickoff will be at 12:30 p.m.

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