Photo by Nick Statt
It has been a year of precedents for Stony Brook Football.
For the first time in history, the Seawolves (9-3) played in and won their conference championship on November 19 against Liberty University. That 41-31 romp gave the Seawolves their first bid to the NCAA Division 1 playoffs.
In the nascent weeks of the season, this was all unfathomable. Stony Brook was off to a less-than-auspicious 0-3 start. They opened the year all the way in El Paso, losing by a touchdown in overtime to UTEP, a worthy adversary. Then Stony Brook slipped up the next week against lowly Buffalo (3-9), and then again to Brown in week three. For a minute, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my freshman year in 2008, when the Seawolves boasted a lackluster 5-6 record and I an embarrassingly large head of hair.
One of their losses that year came at the hands of Liberty, in fact, who ran up a 33-0 score at Williams Stadium in Virginia. Things have changed quite a bit since then. Let’s just say I’m keeping with a more closely cropped look.
And these are not your strange older cousin’s Seawolves either (He says that he graduated Stony Brook with a BA in Art History in 2001, but the family all knows that he dropped out of school and used the last of his tuition money to roadie with Bon Jovi.) Stony Brook is sitting pretty after winning nine games in a row after losing their initial three. This year’s attendance of 39,009 is nearly double the 19,531 that showed up to LaValle Stadium in 2008.
More than 8,000 football fans witnessed Stony Brook’s comeback win against Albany. That’s about the amount of undergraduates living on campus.
On the back of senior running back Brock Jakolski, the Seawolves managed to erase an 18-point deficit, scoring three touchdowns in the second half, including one 55-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter.
Now down by three points, with just less than six minutes left in regulation and the ball on their own 45-yard line, Albany had a cozy amount of time and exceptional field position to sour Stony Brook’s dramatic resurgence.
Over the span of five minutes, Great Dane senior quarterback Dan Di Lella led his team to Stony Brook’s goal line. On the seven yard line, Albany called for a pass. The Albany offensive line completely collapsed. Di Lella slyly shoveled the ball to his running back. The nifty chest pass brought Albany to the three-yard line, just an arm’s length away from the end zone with under a minute left in the fourth quarter.
In lieu of opting for the safer and more conventional run play, Albany opted for a play-action pass. They were out of time outs and hoped to fool an overeager Stony Brook defense.
Di Lella snapped the ball and dropped back. The clock started ticking down from 54 seconds. By the time he faked to his running back and positioned himself, his offensive line had already folded, once again. Seawolves linebacker Jawara Dudley broke into the backfield untouched. He and lineman Junior Solice were thronging. Di Lella, pressured, threw what would be his last pass as a collegiate athlete off his back foot, deep into the end zone.
“It’s just something I’m going to have to live with,” said a somber Di Lella in the post-game press conference. His pass was tipped and Albany’s entire season was intercepted right there in the last few feet of end zone by Stony Brook defensive back Dominick Reyes. “This one goes right on my shoulders…I probably should have just thrown it 50 feet into the stands.”
With the win Stony Brook will advance to the second round of the FCS, traveling some 1,400 miles to Huntsville, Texas to toe up against Sam Houston State University, who are coming off a 36-14 win to Texas State.
“Wow,” coach Chuck Priore said, after coming out on top of his alma mater (University of Albany class of 1982). “I know I say it a lot, but good teams find ways to win…We’re excited for the opportunity to play another week.”