Stony Brook put together its best offensive performance of the season with running back James Kenner carrying 32 times for 136 yards and three touchdowns, but an injury-riddled Seawolves defense couldn't withstand a brilliant performance from Richmond quarterback Michael Strauss, who completed five touchdown passes in a 39-31 victory Saturday afternoon at LaValle Stadium.
Kenner's third touchdown gave the Seawolves 21 straight points and a 28-18 lead with 7:03 left in the third quarter. But it was all Strauss from there as he completed 28 of 38 passes for 360 yards and a phenomenal 196.7 passer rating (using the NCAA passer formula). Spiders wide receiver Ben Edwards had 13 catches for 150 yards and two TDs, and wideout Stephen Barnette added seven catches for 115 yards and one score. The Spiders (4-6, 2-4 Colonial Athletic Association) converted an amazing 12 of 15 third-down plays.
By comparison, Stony Brook quarterback Lyle Negron completed only eight of 16 passes with one tipped-ball interception for 113 yards and one touchdown. Still it was the highest-scoring game of the season for the Seawolves (3-6, 1-5 CAA).
Richmond's Strauss came into the game as the CAA's leading passer, averaging 296.9 yards per game, and he lived up to the advance billing. On the Spiders' opening drive, Strauss completed third-and-10 passes of 19 yards to Ben Edwards and 14 yards to Reggie Diggs, but he was crushed by Seawolves linebackers Jawara Dudley and Reggie Francklin on a third-and-goal incompletion from the three. Richmond settled for a 2-yard Brandon Jordi field goal.
But the Spiders quickly got the ball back when Stony Brook's Negron hit wide receiver Jahri Level, who tipped it to Richmond linebacker Eric Wright for an interception. Wright's 12-yard return plus a 15-yard facemask penalty put the ball at the SBU 15, and Strauss hit wide-open running back Seth Fisher over the middle on first down for a touchdown and a 10- lead.
The Seawolves responded with a solid drive into Richmond territory and then got an enormous break when a Negron interception was wiped out by a defensive holding penalty on Spiders cornerback Wayne Pettus. With a reprieve and a first down at the Richmond 35, Kenner carried three straight times, scoring from 22 yards out to cut Stony Brook's deficit to 10-7 early in the second quarter.
Although Richmond's running game was limited, the Spiders' ball-control offense had a tiring effect on Stony Brook's defense as Strauss led an 85-yard touchdown drive that took 15 plays and lasted 7:20 before Edwards caught a seven-yard TD pass. Edwards then completed a two-point conversion pass to fellow wideout Stephen Barnette for an 18-7 lead.
After relying on Kenner most of the first half, the Seawolves cranked up the passing game. Negron went 4-for-4 for 60 yards, including a 30-yard slant that Level carried to the Richmond three. Kenner then punched it over from the one to cut Stony Brook's halftime deficit to 18-14.
The Seawolves forced Richmond's first punt on the opening drive of th4e second half when Dudley sacked Strauss on third down. Stony Brook started at its own 49, and Kenner immediately broke a 25-yard run on a cutback to the weak side. Another 17-yard Kenner run put the ball at the two, and Kenner powered into the end zone for the go-ahead score behind 350-pound guard Arthur Doakes to take a 21-18 lead.
Stony Brook then forced what amounted to a turnover when Richmond punter Joe Gulli had to run and was tackled at his 20. On third down, Negron drilled a bullet to tight end Will Tye for a 19-yard TD and 28-18 lead.
It took the Spiders four plays and just 1:38 to respond with a 42-yard TD bomb from Strauss to Edwards to draw within 28-25. The Seawolves drove to the Richmond 15 but stalled and settled for a 32-yard Graham Ball field goal and a 31-25 lead.
There Simply was no stopping Strauss when he got the ball back. The Richmond quarterback led a 73-yard drive, hitting Barnette for 45 yards to the Stony Brook 31 and then throwing a 13-yard fade route to Barnette for the touchdown to regain a 32-31 lead with 8:59 left to play.
When Stony Brook went three-and-out on its next drive, Strauss then shredded the Seawolves' tiring defense, completing three huge third-down pass on the 62-yard scoring drive, the last a six-yard TD to Edwards for the final 39-31 margin.