BOZEMAN, Mont. - When Stony Brook's Seawolves look back on their 16-10 loss to Montana State in the second round of the FCS playoss Saturday night at Bobcats Stadium, it will be hard not to think of it as the game they fumbled away. It was a litany of errors that included three fumbles and numerous mental breakdowns.
When MSU placekicker Rory Perez missed a 45-yard field goal attempt with 1:41 left, it gave the Seawolves (10-3) one last gasp to win the game from their 27-yard line with 1:41 remaining. But quarterback Kyle Essington, who played the whole game coming back from a thigh injury, threw an incompletion and was sacked twice. On the last one, his fumble was recovered by defensive end Bill Daly to give third-seeded Montana State (11-1) the win.
The Bobcats did a good job containing running backs Miguel Maysonet (19 carries-83 yards) and Marcus Coker (12-56). Essington completed 10 of 19 passes for 122 yards and two TDs but lost two fumbles. Montana State quarterback DeNarius McGhee rushed for 75 yards on 18 carries and passed for 208 and one touchdown with one interception.
Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore kept Montana State guessing about his starting quarterback until the first Seawolves possession. That's when Essington trotted onto the field for the first time in three weeks since suffering a deep right thigh bruise in the loss at Libertythat ended the regular season. Once Essington was available, there was no alternating with backup Lyle Negron, who led the first-round win over Villanova.
The Seawolves' first drive was similar to their opening 98-yard, 21-play TD drive against Villanova - minus the touchdown or any points at all. Essington missed his first pass but hit three others as the Seawolves moved 75 yards in 15 plays. The drive ended when Wes Skiffington's 35-yard field goal attempt was wide left.
That was the first of several first-half disappointments for SBU. The next came just 1:35 later when Seawolves safeties Dominick Reyes and Cedrick Moore had a miscommunication on the back end and left Bobcats wide receiver Tanner Bleskin running wide open down the middle of the field to catch a 69-yard touchdown pass from McGhee for a 7-0 lead.
The Seawolves almost got it back on the first play after the kickoff. Wideout Kevin Norrell was wide-open down the middle but had to dive to make a spectacular 46-yard reception on an errant throw by the rusty Essington. A holding penalty on a first-down play at Montana State's 14 effectively stalled the drive, and the Seawolves settled for a 38-yard Skiffington field goal and a 7-3 deficit early in the second quarter.
The litany of errors continued on the next Stony Brook possession. With a first down at the Bobcats' 21, Maysonet had the ball torn from his grip by MSU nose tackle Craig Ashworth, who recovered at the 23. McGhee led the Bobcats 46 yards to score on a 48-yard field goal by Perez for a 10-3 lead at halftime.
Seawolves cornerback Davonte Anderson hauled down Bleskin on a 45-yard pass to the SBU 1. That was good because Stony Brook held and forced a 21-yard Perez field goal for a 13-3 Montana State cushion.
One big play by the Seawolves got them back in the game. Cornerback Davonte Anderson intercepted a McGhee pass at his 12 and returned it 28 yards to the 40. Two straight pass interference penalties moved it to the Montana State 30, and Norrell caught a 14-yard pass to the 10. On third down at the 4-yard line, Essington found Norrell in the back of the end zone for a TD that cut the deficit to 13-10 with 11:53 left to play.
The Bobcats got a 45-yard kickoff return from Shawn Johnson and drove to the SBU 25 before a holding call stalled the drive. Perez kicked a 45-yard field goal for a 16-10 lead with 9:04 to play. It still was anybody's game.