By Mark Greek

A dozen white tents were lined up, sitting in a field typically occupied by Stony Brook students practicing soccer or lazy wiffle ball games. Rows of fiery grills set up to accommodate the surprisingly receptive and growing crowd of tailgaters. A pleasant, but firm, man reluctantly declining to let this disappointed 18-year-old reporter ride a pony (as was promised in Homecoming ads all over campus). Big Shot, a well-meaning Billy Joel cover band entertained those in attendance. Stony Brook certainly didn’t chintz on the activities, and a good time was guaranteed for all, continuing the proud tradition of Homecoming.

Since 1911, American institutions of higher learning have been participating in this well-known custom. Generally resulting in the consumption of alcohol and grilled foods, this early autumn celebration of school pride is typically punctuated by another great American tradition—Football.

A decidedly unofficial aspect of Homecoming is the home team playing a less-than-competitive opponent. The Seawolves have not lost a Homecoming game under head coach Chuck Priore since he assumed the position in 2005. A fair accomplishment, made easier by the fact that schedulers are very aware of a school’s Homecoming game, and might be more inclined to thrust a less competitive team into the waiting jaws of 7,000-plus screaming fans and students.

The institution of Homecoming in its simplest form is a clever way to simultaneously drum up attention for an athletic program and generate pride for former residents and alumni.  Stony Brook’s Homecoming festivities, humorously called Wolfstock, encompass an entire weekend of crimson celebration.

Entering with an uninspired record (1-3), and a need to impress the assembled 7,432 students and fans, the Seawolves held Virginia Military Institute to nine points with a dominant defense and a surprisingly potent offensive attack. Early field goals and offensive miscues made it look as though the red-drenched masses were going to witness a sniping, low-scoring game.

A lone field goal made the 1stquarter a tedious affair, but a surprisingly efficient red-zone defense made any kind of offense look impossible for VMI. The Seawolves made it difficult for the Keydets to convert on 3rd down or really put up any sort of fight, especially towards the middle of the game. Stony Brook’s defense seemed to get more comfortable as the game went on, ultimately holding VMI to 192 yards of total offense (eight rushing). The Seawolf offense awoke in the second half, and much like Wolfie on his tricked-out dirt bike, started riding downfield with reckless abandon.

Running back, Miguel Maysonet, carried the ball 21 times for a total of 99 yards, a feat made all the more impressive by virtue of the fact that the team had two other runs totaling 30 yards wiped out by penalties.

William Floyd legend, Brock Jackolski, ran for another 91 yards, punctuated by a 25-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter.

Overall, the offense performed admirably for most of the game. Quarterback Michael Coulter looked good, completing 14 of 19 passes, with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Gush that made it 10-3 before halftime.

Sloppy special teams all around forced “ooh’s” and “aah’s” from the massive crowd, capturing their attention in a game otherwise held firmly in the territory of Blowout Land. Sporadic brilliance in the air, coupled with the double-barreled dominance of Maysonet and Jackolski, gave The Red Zone something to cheer about. Improving Stony Brook’s record to a more respectable 2-3, this Homecoming thrashing of a Big South Conference opponent can leave the Seawolves feeling good, perhaps reducing the sting of last week’s five-point loss to nationally ranked UMass.

At any rate, Saturday was an overwhelmingly successful day for a team and a school determined to silence critics and play the type of football that makes it a long day for visiting teams, and an entertaining display for the loyal red-bathed fans.

Home field advantage can be difficult to quantify, but Homecoming is the ultimate example of this ambiguous phenomenon. The concept of a 12th man in football, or the crowd having an impact on the game can inspire the assembled masses to boo loudly at the visiting team. The psychological aspect of competitive sports is an underappreciated element that can seriously affect the outcome of any contest. Homecoming game can be penciled in as an instant victory on the schedule, giving a boost to an underperforming team, as it did this week for the embattled Seawolves, struggling to remain relevant in the Big South.