The grind of the Colonial Athletic Association schedule guarantees some very good teams will have a stressful Selection Sunday. Saturday’s matchup between No. 21 Towson and Stony Brook might be the quintessential example.
Who: No. 21 Towson (5-4, 2-3 CAA) at Stony Brook (5-4, 2-3)
When: Saturday, Nov. 9, 2 p.m. ET
Where: LaValle Stadium; Stony Brook, N.Y.
Watch: LIVE on FloFootball
For two squads very much in the hunt for a playoff berth, both injuries and some heartbreaking setbacks have upped the ante on this final stretch of the regular season. Week 11 may not be must-win for either, but it’s probably close.
With injuries come opportunities, to which Towson can attest. Last week in a big win over Delaware, Caleb Smith emerged to rack up 200 yards receiving.
“It epitomizes a whole bunch that’s great about football, and great about the human spirit,” Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. “A guy who’s on the lower end of the depth chart, just kind of working his way up. … Guys keep falling down, guys keep stepping up. He stepped up in a huge, huge way.”
Stony Brook’s seen it, too, like with freshman running back Ty Son Lawton helping to carry much of the rushing responsibility in the wake of multiple injuries.
The Seawolves are looking to rebound at home after dropping a tough road decision at Richmond. The loss, coming one week after a last-second win over a top 10-ranked Villanova team, speaks to the tumultuous season it’s been throughout the CAA.
Double Dual Threats
As Stony Brook quarterback Tyquell Fields’ star began to rise earlier this season, Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore cited Towson’s Tom Flacco as a benchmark for the dual-threat style of play.
Fields and Flacco have produced some similar numbers heading into Week 11: Fields has thrown for 1,962 yards and 11 touchdowns, and run for 266 yards with four scores. Flacco’s produced 2,143 yards in the air with 16 touchdowns, and 317 ground with a pair of end-zone trips.
Although both are capable ball-carriers, to label either Fields or Flacco as merely running quarterbacks is a disservice to their all-around ability.
“People look at him as a runner,” Priore said. “He’s a thrower first, and then he can beat you with his feet on run-call plays.”
Priore also noted Towson’s wide-receiving corps features some of the most dynamic playmakers in the CAA. Shane Leatherbury’s had an All-American caliber season for the Tigers, while both Darian Street and Smith provide dangerous second options.
While they are dual-threats, stopping the pass is of highest priority for both defenses. Stony Brook experienced that last week when Richmond held Fields to just 10 completions. For Towson, Flacco’s lowest-yardage games – with the exception of his historic performance against Bucknell, in which he only played the first half – have coincided with the Tigers’ losses.
Ready For The Run Game
While the passing proficiency of Saturday’s two quarterbacks takes center stage, rushing defense could swing the outcome.
Both Stony Brook and Towson have dealt with a rash of injuries in their backfields. The loss of Shane Simpson early in the campaign limited some of Towson’s options, but Yeedee Thaenrat has continued to grind as the primary ball-carrier. He put up a monster, three-touchdown game against Delaware.
His 70 yards rushing mark Thaenrat’s high against CAA competition this year.
“The component of having to stop the run allows the play-action pass and bootleg stuff to be successful,” Priore said of Towson’s balance.
Stony Brook’s offense has long built off a stout rushing attack. This season is no exception, with the Seawolves coming in ranked second in the CAA at 208.6 yards on the ground per game.
Richmond flourished last week in limiting Stony Brook’s rushing production, getting into the backfield to slow runs before they could develop. Towson’s rolled with an aggressive blitzing approach much of this season, led by Robert Heyward and Bryce Carter at 9.5 and 9 tackles for loss.
The question mark with such an approach then becomes the bootleg and scrambles Fields is capable of breaking off, much in the same vein as Priore’s observations of Flacco’s run-game production.
Towson’s defensive aggression produces plenty of turnover opportunities. Coby Tippett, Keon Paye and Heyward all have multiple interceptions on the season, and the Tigers rank in a tie for eighth-most interceptions in the FCS.
Stony Brook’s turnover-creation numbers are lower, but the Seawolves’ ability to bring pressure means it’s always a possibility.
Defensive end Sam Kamara’s been the most noticeable of the injuries on the Seawolves’ defense, but Stony Brook has had an important re-addition to the lineup with defensive back Synceir Malone. He returned to make nine tackles in the win against Villanova, provided another seven against Richmond, and picked off his second pass of the year vs. the Spiders.
Malone’s first pick of the year in Week 1 went back for a touchdown. Having a playmaker of his caliber back at full strength bolsters a defense facing a quarterback in Flacco who limits mistakes.