Everyone knows Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore wants to run the ball with Miguel Maysonet and Marcus Coker. And that's what makes the passing of quarterback Kyle Essington so effective.
Here's the secret Priore knows about his run-oriented offense: "Something we need to do is throw the football to win championships. Winning comes this way -- you stop the run and you run the football. But to win the big ones, you've got to be able to stop the pass and throw the ball."
Essington proved he could hit the big pass in the FCS playoffs last season, and when Priore gave him the green light to come out slinging last Saturday, he threw five touchdown passes in a 49-7 win over Charleston Southern. Now the Seawolves (5-1, 1-0 Big South) face possibly their toughest conference game of the season Saturday at Coastal Carolina (2-3, 0-0).
The Chanticleers will have to stop more than the run. "This will be a great opportunity to make a statement for our team and let everyone know that, hey, we're coming in to dominate and play at our best level," Essington said. "This is a great opportunity to show everyone we're really a championship team."
Earlier this season, Essington led Stony Brook into the Carrier Dome and connected on a 63-yard bomb to Kevin Norrell for a 7-0 lead over Syracuse. The rest of that game didn't go as well. He finished with only four completions in 19 passes thanks to five drops, including one that would have been a TD, and two interceptions.
"I knew we had to get better," Essington said. "We weren't on the same page, the wide receivers and myself. I think we've done a good job of fixing that."
Since that game, Essington has completed 33 of 52 passes for 569 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception in wins over Colgate, Army and Charleston Southern. Although Coastal Carolina's Aramis Hillary is the total offense leader in the Big South, Essington is the pass efficiency leader at 179.1 to Hillary's 145.88.
Describing his play in the past three games, Essington said, "I think I've just become more confident and am delivering the ball where it's supposed to go. We're finally getting into a good rhythm, which is great. We're going with a full head of steam into Coastal, so I'm happy."
Priore is happy, too, to have a quarterback who is a strong leader and who understands Stony Brook's offense. "With the motions, the formations, the type of run checks and pass checks we have, it's much more complicated than it looks to the naked eye," Priore said. "It looks like we just hand the ball off. But there's a lot Kyle takes advantage of."