KINGSTON, R.I. - Stony Brook's debut as a football member of the Colonial Athletic Association lacked the offensive fireworks the Seawolves were known for in the Big South. But a stout defense and a gutty performance by quarterback Lyle Negron translated to a 24-0 victory over Rhode Island Saturday afternoon at Meade Stadium.
The Rams (0-2) are a young team that has lost 15 straight and was coming off a 51-26 shellacking the previous week at Fordham, but the CAA cellar- dweller put up a surprisingly good fight. The 13th-ranked Seawolves (1-0) were too tough on defense, recovering three fumbles and stopping two fourth-down plays in Stony Brook territory in the second half, and Negron showed remarkable toughness while scrambling to make plays.
Called upon to replace injured Kyle Essington in an FCS first-round playoff victory over Villanova last season, Negron spent that game mostly handing off. But he was a big playmaker at URI, completing 12 of 19 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown and rushing seven times for 65 yards, including a 59-yard run on the Seawolves' first offensive play.
Negron was sacked only once but took a bunch of big hits in the open field as he often dropped back to pass and then ran. "That's just the way I play the game," the senior said. "I'm a real physical QB. I've got to learn to slide, though. It felt like a first game for me. I made a lot of mistakes."
Negron's opening run took him to the Rhode Island 10-yard line, but the Seawolves had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Nick Ferrara, who later missed from 27 yards.
After cornerback Reuben Johnson recovered a fumble by Rams receiver Andrew Matos, Stony Brook drove 61 yards to score on an 8-yard run by Marcus Coker for a 10-0 halftime lead.
That drive was kept alive by Negron on third-down completions of 16 yards to Devante Wheeler and a pass through a tight window that tight end Will Tye carried 34 yards one play before Coker stiff-armed his way into the end zone.
"Tye didn't see the guy behind him," Negron said. "I was hoping he'd concentrate on the ball, which he did."
Coker was limited to 78 yards rushing on 23 carries by a Rhode Island defense that often stacked nine players in the box at the line of scrimmage and by penalties that wiped out a couple of long gainers.
The Rams kept it close through a scoreless third period but were stopped twice on fourth-down plays by Stony Brook linebacker Jawara Dudley. He tackled running back Robbie Delgado for a 1-yard gain on fourth-and-3 from the SBU 37. Dudley also stopped the Rams' deepest penetration on fourth-and-3 at the SBU 26 when he dropped into pass coverage and tackled running back Jordan Sebastien for a 1-yard gain early in the fourth quarter.
Dudley said the shutout was "nice. We set our goal for two turnovers and got three."
Dudley's final fourth-down stop was the turning point. Negron then guided the Seawolves 75 yards to score on an 8-yard run by Jamie Williams for a 17-0 lead with 9:23 left.
After another fumble recovery by Johnson at the Rhode Island 49, Negron added the finishing touch with a 30-yard TD strike to wideout Adrian Coxson on a post pattern for the final margin.
"I was like, 'Finally,' '' Negron said. "He had a few of those in the beginning and either overthrew them or something."
Although the final score was closer than expected, it was a positive transition to CAA play and for Negron. "It's a lot different," he said. "This year, it felt like it's my turn. It felt good."