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It wouldn’t be accurate to describe the Stony Brook offense as one-dimensional, but you could argue that when the Seawolves are at their best they’re moving the football on the ground.
Who: New Hampshire (3-2, 2-0) at No. 23 Stony Brook (4-2, 1-1)
When: Saturday, Oct. 12, 6 p.m. ET
Where: LaValle Stadium; Stony Brook, N.Y.
Watch: LIVE on FloFootball
Stony Brook will enter Saturday night’s Colonial Athletic Association game against New Hampshire (3-2, 2-0 CAA) averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 240.2 yards rushing per game. James Madison is the only CAA team averaging more yards per game on the ground (268.2).
Stony Brook (4-2, 1-1 CAA) will be running into the CAA’s No. 3 rushing defense. Through five games UNH, which is allowing a league-low 16.6 points per game, has held opponents to 3.4 yards per carry and 124.4 yards per game. That defense has made up for an offense that’s last in the CAA in both scoring (20.6 points per game) and first downs (89).
“I think the offense feeds off those guys (the UNH defense),” UNH interim head coach Ricky Santos said. “We knew they were going to be a really tough, dynamic group based on going against them all camp long. Right now they’re the strength of our team. We feel like if those guys continue to play the way they have been, we continue to make strides offensively we have a shot to win some more games here.”
Stony Brook’s rushing attack features three capable running backs in Isaiah White, Seba Nekhet, and Ty Son Lawton. White has run for a team-high 465 yards and five touchdowns on 88 carries, Nekhet has rushed for 418 yards on 73 attempts, and Lawton has picked up 255 yards and five TDs on 55 carries. Injuries to White and Nekhet forced Lawton, a redshirt freshman, to get most of the carries in Saturday’s 45-38 overtime loss to James Madison, and he gained 108 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries.
The Seawolves have shown the ability to stretch defenses as well. Quarterback Tyquell Fields is averaging 19.3 yards per completion. He’s completed 65 of 126 passes for 1,251 yards and eight touchdowns, and has been intercepted twice. Andrew Trent has 11 receptions for 306 yards and leads the CAA in yards per catch (27.8). Nick Anderson is third in that category with 19 receptions for 352 yards (18.5).
“They run the ball, but they also have big-play ability,” UNH safety Evan Horn said. “They take shots. We have to be aware of that this week. Stop the run, but don’t let them throw it over the top of us.”
Fields also contributes in the running game. He’s run for 234 yards and two touchdowns on 51 carries.
“He’s making big plays,” Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore said. “He’s making big throws. When quarterbacks play like that you have a chance to play well against good defenses.
“(UNH is) playing great defense, which they always do year in and year out. They’re very well-coached on that side of the ball. It’ll be a very competitive game here.”
Senior Michael Balsamo, UNH’s most experienced linebacker, is expected to play Saturday, but the Wildcats may be without wide receiver Malik Love (back). Balsamo sustained a thumb injury — that later required surgery — during UNH’s opener against Holy Cross and hasn’t suited up since then.
The Wildcats have won three games in a row but are seeking their first road victory this season.
“Now the mentality is being road warriors and getting one in somebody else place,” UNH wide receiver Nick Lorden said. “We owe these guys. They got us last year on homecoming and two years ago when we were down there, so we have to go steal one from them.”
The first meeting between Stony Brook and UNH took place in 2006, when Santos was in the midst of his Walter Payton Award-winning junior season and Priore was in his first season as Stony Brook’s head coach.
The Wildcats won that game 62-7, but each team has won three times in the six meetings since then.
“Second game I ever coached here was against him as a quarterback,” Priore said. “It wasn’t fond memories. Hopefully Saturday will be a little bit better memory.”
UNH, Stony Brook and Villanova each have a league-high 15 sacks. Stony Brook and Villanova have played six games, one more than UNH.
UNH recorded six sacks — three by freshman linebacker Oleh Manzyk — in last weekend’s 26-10 victory over Elon. Defensive lineman Sam Kamara leads Stony Brook with three sacks.
“They do a really good job of getting after the quarterback,” Santos said. “They like to pressure. They’re going to get after us a little bit so we need to protect the quarterback, like we’ve been doing all year, and then find some ways to get the ball out of our had as well. And then try to control the pace a little bit by running the ball as well.”
- Stony Brook’s Jean Constant leads the CAA in average yards per punt return (14.0). He’s returned nine punts for 126 yards.
- Stony Brook (71.4 percent) and UNH (62.5 percent) are at the bottom of the CAA in red zone offense.
- The Wildcats forced eight turnovers and recorded 13 sacks during their three-game winning streak.