Head Coach Priore has been at Stony Brook since 2006, with four FCS playoff appearances including back-to-back trips in 2017 and 2018. The last couple seasons have been rougher goes: after a 4-1 start in 2019, he took eventual national champion runner-up James Madison to overtime in a heartbreaking loss, starting a run of six losses in their final seven games. His team didn’t play a game in the calendar year of 2020, but played four games in March of this year, going 1-3 but with a win in their final game against Albany before their final two scheduled games were cancelled.
This Fall, the Seawolves have started 1-1: a pretty dominant 24-3 win over Colgate last week, and a bizarre 27-21 loss to New Hampshire in the opener in which both teams turned the ball over three times, there were massive swings in momentum, and Stony Brook was turned away from the game winner on the final play in the redzone.
If he had completed that final pass against UNH, it wouldn’t have been unusual for third-year starter #4 QB Fields - he’s had three game-winning or -tying 4th quarter drives so far in his career, and set the school record in their last full season with 2,809 total yards. While this is a fairly modern, 11-/12-personnel spread offense that uses every player on the grass, I think that Fields is far and away their best athlete.
Through two games prior to garbage time, SBU has 31 successful designed passing plays vs 34 failed ones, given the down & distance, or 47.7%. However I think that number is a bit skewed by the small sample: they were below water when passing against UNH while throwing twice as often as rushing, but against Colgate they discovered that they could run the ball at will and so reversed their run:pass ratio and sat on them the entire game. I believe if SBU had run a balanced offense last week, their pass efficiency would have come out a little above water.
Here’s a representative sample of their passing offense:
(Reminder - you can right-click or long-press any video to play it at ¼ or ½ speed)
- :00 - Nicely delivered pass to #11 WR Harris, their leading receiver, who’s got the CB burned down the sideline. It’s his first read, which almost all of Fields’ passes are, but notice how he makes the decision to throw the instant Harris gets even with the corner - I saw very little hesitation in Fields’ game.
- :34 - Good RPO read of the DBs in this throw to the flat, the safety’s out of the lane on the run threat and the CB is off. #0 WR Hellarms, tied for second-leading receiver, shows some great moves after the catch for extra yardage.
- :43 - The biggest liability in the passing game is the frequent pocket breakdowns from the o-line and TEs; I tallied 27% of all dropbacks ending in a sack, scramble, or throwaway. Here both tackles are beat around the edge and the throw is affected.
- :59 - It’s not just the tackles, the interior guards get beat by simple spin moves all the time - they’re real big and pretty decent at run-blocking but there are mobility and footwork issues.
The rushing offense has 34 successful designed runs vs 24 unsuccessful ones, or 58.6% - that’s an impressive number, though it’s buoyed by an unsustainable 23 vs 10 performance against Colgate, who just structurally could not stop their B-gap running. I like both of their top two backs, and it also helps their designed rushing performance that there are a lot of read-option runs in this offense, and Fields is a pretty quick and eager runner himself. Here’s a representative sample:
- :00 - Right read of the crashing SAM, nice block from Harris on the outside, and Fields turns on the jets to outrun the safety.
- :19 - Going under-center is a 85% run tell, vs just 36% running from the shotgun, and this strongside run by #3 RB Nekhet is the one Colgate couldn’t stop at all, making up about 40% of all plays by SBU last week.
- :26 - I think leading rusher #7 RB Lawton is a pretty good back, but he can’t make up for the poor blocking by the playside guard and the backside tight end.
- :33 - The offset-back version of their outside rush plays is less effective than the under-center version on my tally sheet. I think while both are fairly predictable (the two tight ends in the formation are a dead giveaway, 81% run to their side), when the back is offset the backside OLB has a better chance of catching him from behind, as on this play.
I think the best unit on Stony Brook’s 4-2-5 defense is their line, which is probably why their rush defense numbers are much better than against the pass. They have 31 successful defenses against designed runs vs 22 failures, or 58.5% effectiveness.
Again that’s buoyed by an odd split in one of their games: despite being almost twice as effective at passing, New Hampshire ran the ball at a 3:2 ratio, and that stubbornness really inflated SBU’s rush defense numbers. Still, the line talent is pretty clear; here’s a representative sample:
- :00 - Great move by #70 DT Lopez, I think their best tackle, to penetrate and bring down the back to complete the 4-play goalline stand at the end of the first half - all runs, all stopped.
- :16 - Lopez mauls the center to get into the backfield, and #39 DE Stover sheds the much bigger pulling guard to help on the tackle for loss.
- :24 - This off-tackle play was a big part of the weirdness against the run in the opener, as it was successful 100% of the time UNH ran it. The backers never figured out that they’re hitting the wrong gap.
- :31 - Oregon fans surely know by now that QB power against man coverage is a big part of the Ducks’ playbook. Here it works as intended against SBU’s defense, isolating the backer one-on-one in the hole and the QB gets enough against him for a 1st down. The Seawolves only defended designed QB runs successfully about 30% of the time.
The defense has more of an issue against the pass. On the season they’ve got 19 successfully defended dropbacks vs 22 failures, or 46.3%, and this is the one quadrant of play from scrimmage in which the playcounts and effectiveness are consistent between the two games.
The pass rush grades out relatively well on my tally sheet, though I don’t have enough good data to comment on blitz patterns with only two games. However I think coverage is frequently a problem. Here’s a representative sample:
- :00 - I saw this 4-man pass rush pattern quite a bit, where they rush the nickel and drop out the stand-up end on the other side. Here, the confusion this creates between the RT and TE lets the DB through and forces a throwaway.
- :11 - Great job by #2 DE C. Williams, I think their best end, to get around the LT and force the sack. #9 DE Smith beating the RT at the same time cuts off the QB’s escape.
- :18 - I didn’t see a ton of RPOs by opposing offenses, and when I did it seemed that SBU’s tendency was to play them outside and get the QB to hand off instead. But on the few occasions when the QB pulled the ball to throw, I never saw them defend it properly. Here the backer isn’t getting into the lane despite having no other responsibilities on the play, and the DB in man can’t help because the two-high structure has him too far off an out-breaking route.
- :34 - I saw this coverage structure virtually every time on 3rd down: they park just about everybody at the line to gain — five guys, here — and anybody going past it gets single coverage with no help. This play is representative for how well the DBs tend to do.