After scoring 21 straight points to come from behind and topple Albany at home last week, Stony Brook’s football team now must beat the No. 1-ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision, Sam Houston State, to keep its season alive.
Down by 18 in the second half to Albany, coach Chuck Priore’s alma mater, they almost never got the chance. Then Brock Jackolski thrilled the sellout crowd at LaValle Stadium in the final home game of his Stony Brook career by scoring three touchdowns.
The defense clamped down on the Great Danes, causing two interceptions and allowing only 92 yards after Albany score their final touchdown.
Stony Brook has not lost to an FCS school this season, a win streak of nine straight games.
Sam Houston State has not lost to anyone this year and is on a 13-game winning streak, going back to the final two games of last season. They’re one of the six FCS schools to beat a Football Bowl Subdivision team this season. Stony Brook came close to joining them on that list, falling to UTEP in overtime in the season opener.
The coach of the number one ranked FCS team in the nation, Willie Fritz, sees a lot of similarities between his team and the Seawolves.
"It's really an excellent, balanced team," Fritz said. "Their coaching staff and our coaching staff really share the same philosophy about controlling the game through the run and doing everything in our power to stop the run effectively."
The Seawolves will be led by their one-two punch in the backfield, Jackolski and junior Miguel Maysonet. This season Jackolski broke the Big South season record with 19 touchdowns and Maysonet took down the conference single-season rushing mark with 1,560 yards.
Stopping Stony Brook’s rushing attack will be the key component of Sam Houston State’s defensive success. Fritz said that he plans on stacking the box to stuff the run.
"It’s going to be a tough task," he said. "We'd love to put 13, 14 guys between the tight ends if it were legal."
Kyle Essington has been spectacular since taking over the starting quarterback job in week five for injured quarterback Michael Coulter. Essington has thrown for 1,693 yards in eight games with 18 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Fritz was impressed with how Essington manages the game and plays off the rushing attack.
In just his second season, Fritz has completely turned around the Sam Houston State program. Last year, with only 29 returning players on the 90 man roster, Fritz coached one of the youngest teams in the country to a 6-5 record. That young roster equals a lot of staying power with only 14 seniors on the squad for a team that’s a perfect 11-0 this year. They’re ranked first in the FCS in rush defense and scoring defense.
Expect plenty of option plays from the Bearkats. Sophomore running back Tim Flanders, a Walter Payton Award candidate, ran for 1,133 yards this season with 22 touchdowns.
Priore said in an interview with Newsday earlier this week he plans to keep relying on the team's running game.
"Our game plan is exactly how it's been for  straight weeks, and for almost six years," he told Newsday. "We go on the board, we put our run game together and we expect to run the football."