Bobcats survive Stony Brook Seawolves

Deonte Flowers (#37) and Steven Bethley (#1) take down a Stonybrook running back in Saturday’s BCS playoff game. Photo by Kate Juedes.

As expected, the Stony Brook Seawolves (SBU) (10-3, 5-1 Big South) ran the ball, and as expected, the Bobcats (11-1, 6-1) contained the run game and forced the Seawolves to beat them with the passing game. It worked out for Head Coach Rob Ash and the Cats, winning a close game 16-10.

Even the return of Seawolves’ senior quarterback, Kyle Essington, who was named the starter in pregame warmups, couldn’t lift the Seawolves over the Cats. As predicted in last week’s issue, the game was decided by defense and special teams, and the Cats were better at both.

The game did not begin well for SBU who started on their own five-yard line after a brilliant punt by MSU kicker/punter Trevor Bolton. The Seawolves then drove 77 yards on their first possession, but SBU kicker Wesley Skiffington missed a 33-yard field goal. In response, MSU struck quickly on the third play of their second drive, as DeNarius McGhee hit wide receiver Tanner Bleskin for a 69-yard touchdown. MSU led the rest of the way.

Skiffington hit a 38-yard field goal early in the second quarter to cut the lead to 7-3, but while driving into MSU territory once again SBU’s Miguel Maysonet, the league’s leading rusher, fumbled after a tackle for loss by MSU defensive lineman Craig Ashworth. Ashworth recovered the fumble and gave kicker Rory Perez a chance to show off his leg with less than five minutes before halftime, hitting a 48-yard field goal to push the lead back up to seven.

With their first drive of the second half, MSU drove 65 yards to set up Perez again, this time from just 21 yards out, and Perez was good again, making it 13-3.

The fourth quarter didn’t start well for McGhee, as he was intercepted by SBU defensive back Davonte Anderson on the first play of the quarter. SBU used the only MSU turnover to pull within three, taking advantage of consecutive pass interference calls on MSU cornerbacks and then hitting wide receiver Kevin Norrell for a four-yard touchdown. MSU would answer on their next drive with Perez hitting another long field goal — this one from 45 yards out — making it 16-10 with just over nine minutes left.

The MSU defense forced a big three-and-out from SBU and then took control of the game on offense, holding the ball for six-and-a-half minutes and setting up Perez for another field goal from 45 yards out, but Perez finally missed one.

“I thought Rory had a fabulous game,” Ash said. “Missed field goals happen. I’ll take the 10 points he scored for us any day. He was very good tonight.”

Luckily, just 1:41 remained in the game, and MSU’s defense stepped up again, this time forcing a fumble and turnover on a sack by defensive ends Brad Daly and Caleb Schreibeis.

“I was up against the biggest human I’ve ever seen in my life, and I couldn’t go through him, so I went around him,” Daly said of 6-foot-8, 345-pound Stony Brook tackle Michael Bamiro.

MSU allowed just 123 yards rushing against two of the best running backs in the league. In fact, SBU’s Maysonet is expected to be an NFL draft pick this April. “We’ll still get to see him on Sunday afternoons,” said SBU head coach Chuck Priore.

McGhee finished as the leading rusher for the Cats with 75 yards. He also completed 12 of 22 passes for 208 yards and one touchdown, but was sacked four times and took a few rough hits while scrambling. “He’s a magician out there,” said Ash. “If I keep talking I’ll only repeat myself.”

The Cats face recent FCS rival Sam Houston State in the quarterfinals at Bobcat Stadium on Friday, Dec. 7 at 6 p.m.