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Fourth Quarter Pushes Stony Brook Over Liberty
Stony Brook scored twice during the fourth quarter and forced two turnovers late in the game, allowing the Seawolves to capture the 2011 Big South title, Saturday, with a 41-31 victory over No. 16/16 Liberty inside of LaValle Stadium.
With the victory, Stony Brooks extends its winning streak to eight games in a row and raises its overall record to 8-3. The home team also became the first program in Big South history to finish 6-0 in conference play, en route to capturing the school's first-ever berth into the NCAA FCS Playoffs by securing the league's postseason automatic bid.
With the loss, the Flames finish the season with a 7-4 overall mark and have their four-year run as Big South champions come to an end with a 5-1 mark in conference play.
The Flames jumped out to a 7-0 lead on their first drive of the game, a 16-play drive that took up almost half of the first quarter. The 80-yard drive was topped off by a three-yard touchdown run by Mike Brown with 7:46 left in the opening period, his eighth of the season and his 28th of his career.
The 16-drive effort was keyed by four third-down conversions, the first three coming on passing plays and the last coming on the scoring run by Brown.
While the Flames used a methodical drive to crack the scoreboard for the first time, Stony Brook was able to knot the game with 4:41 left in the first half, thanks to a pair of 39-yard plays.
The first was a 39-yard sideline pass from Kyle Essington to Chris Fenelon, followed directly by a 39-yard burst to the left side of the field by Brock Jackolski. The senior's 13th rushing touchdown of the season tied the game at 7-7.
The Flames looked like they might quickly answer back, as Brown found Chris Summers open over the middle for a 46-yard reception. The All-America wide out was fouled on the play, resulting in additional yardage and gave Liberty possession inside the red zone.
However, three plays later, Craig Richardson stepped in front of a Brown pass over the middle of the field, giving the home team their third possession of the night.
Big plays continued to help Stony Brook, allowing the Seawolves to take a 14-7 lead with 1:49 remaining in the opening period.
The first was a 43-yard rush up the middle by Miguel Maysonet, which was followed three plays later by a slant pass from Essington to Kevin Norrell. The junior got to the far sideline and shook off a few tackles for a 26-yard TD reception.
On the ensuing drive, Liberty started to rack up some sizeable plays of its own, starting with four-straight double-digit pass plays. Three were to Summers (19, 21 and 16 yards) and the another was a 17-yard pass to B.J. Hayes.
The final pass of the drive to Summers gave Liberty possession at the nine-yard line. The ball was then handed off to Aldreakis Allen, who recorded his eighth rushing touchdown of the season, tying the game at 14-14 on the third play of the second quarter.
Stony Brook countered, but Liberty's defense was able to keep them out of the end zone. The 11-play, 37-yard drive managed to just cross into the red zone until pressure by Brent Vinson forced Essington to throw the ball out of bounds on a third-and-nine play. Wesley Skiffington them came in and knocked down a 36-yard field goal with 8:47 left before halftime.
The back-and-forth battle continued with Liberty retaking the lead, following a quick 77-yard drive, which ended in a 13-yard touchdown reception by Allen. The six-play effort was keyed by a 58-yard reception by Summers, getting the Flames into the red zone.
Big plays continued to key the Stony Brook offense, coming once again on the arm of Essington. Following a rush for no gain by Maysonet, Essington rolled out and found Matt Brevi open on a leaping catch around the 20-yard line.
The senior came down with the ball and avoided one defender to find the end zone, giving the Seawolves a 24-21 edge on a 49-yard touchdown catch with 4:29 left before the break.
Both teams had chances to point additional points on the scoreboard during the waning minutes of the half, but neither was successful.
Liberty's opportunity came when an eight-play, 64-yard drive stalled at the Stony Brook 18-yard line, but Matt Bevins' 35-yard field goal attempt sailed wide to the right with 69 second left before halftime.
Stony Brook quickly moved the ball down field with the clock winding down, getting as far as the Liberty 32-yard line. However, the Seawolves were whistled for a face mask penalty that pushed them out of scoring range and sent the two teams to the locker room.
Liberty edged Stony Brook during the first 30 minutes of play, finishing the first half with 341 total offensive yards to Stony Brook's 317 yards.
Brown continued to be Liberty's top weapon, completing 18-of-24 passing attempts for 287 yards and one touchdown. Allen led the Flames on the ground with 10 carries for 46 yards, while Summers had seven catches for 176 yards.
Liberty's defense started the second half strong, forcing a three-and-out series on Stony Brook's first possession of the second half. The Flames found much more success the first time they had the ball during the second half, marching 44 yards downfield on nine plays.
However, Stony Brook was able to halt Liberty's drive and the Flames were left with a field goal. The 45-yard kick by Alex Kacere, a career long for the redshirt freshman, tied the game at 24-24 at the 9:02 mark of the third quarter.
As went the first half, Stony Brook continued to answer and regained the lead four-plus minutes later.
A 10-play, 79-yard drive ended on a 14-yard play action pass from Essington to Jackolski, allowing Stony Brook to take a 31-24 lead with 3:53 left in the third quarter. Essington faked a handoff to Jackolski on the scoring play and then the senior got behind the defense in the end zone to give the home team the brief seven-point lead.
The advantage lasted 21 seconds, as Liberty answered back with Brown's second rushing touchdown of the game to tie the game at 31-31.
The Brown scoring run was set up by a 46-yard kickoff return by Kevin Fogg and a sideline infraction by Stony Brook's bench to put the ball at the 15-yard line.
The Flames managed to force the Seawolves to punt for the third time of the day after a short three-play drive.
Liberty drove down to the 24-yard line; however, Brown was sacked on the final play of the third quarter and fumbled the ball, giving the home team the ball back to start the final 15 minutes of the game.
Stony Brook then went to the most successful phase of its game, it rushing attack that ranked No. 4 nationally coming into the game. Eight of the 13 plays on the ensuing 68-yard drive were on the ground, including the final play, a one-yard run to the outside by Maysonet for a 38-31 Stony Brook lead, with 9:39 left in the fourth quarter.
Facing a third-and-three play on the next drive, Brown tried to pick up a first down after his downfield options were covered. However, the senior was struck by Dominick Reves, forcing the ball loose and was recovered by Reves at the 30-yard line.
Following an 11-yard pass play to Jordan Gush, the Sealwolves kept the ball on the ground for the next five plays to try to eat up the clock and extend their lead.
But their drive to take a two-touchdown lead was stopped at the one-yard line, leaving Stony Brook to settle for an 18-yard field goal by Skiffington to put the home team up 41-31 with 4:57 left to play.
Another lengthy kickoff return by Fogg, this one for 37 yards, started the Flames at their own 44-yard line.
However, Stony Brook stepped up its defensive pressure, knowing that the Flames needed to move the ball downfield quickly.
Brown was sacked for the third and final time on the first play, while the Walter Payton Award's next three pass attempts, all three thrown at Pat Kelly, fell incomplete and ended Liberty's hopes of mounting a fourth quarter rally.
The second and decisive half belonged to the home team, with Stony Brook nearly doubling up the Flames in yardage.
The Seawolves outgained Liberty 220 to 122 yards during the second half to finish the game with 537 total offensive yards. Liberty finished the game with 463 total offensive yards.
Stony Brook completely dominated time of possession during the last 30 minutes, 22:17 to 7:43, including a 13:08 to 1:52 edge during the fourth quarter.
Brown had the 15th and final 300-yard showing of his stellar Liberty career, finishing the day with 383 total offensive yards. The senior completed 22-of-36 pass attempts for 361 yards, while rushing 12 times for 22 yards. Brown factored into three of Liberty's four touchdowns on the day, rushing for two and throwing another.
Essington ended the game 14-of-20 for 250 yards and three touchdown passes.
Allen found the end zone for the fifth-straight game and led Liberty's rushing attack with 13 carries for 79 yards.
Maysonet and Jackolski continued their 100-yard efforts, both eclipsing the mark against the Flames. Maysonet led the Seawolves with 25 carries for 158 yards, while Jackolski carried the ball 18 times for 121 yards. Both running back scored once during the game.
Summers capped of his stellar Liberty career with his best single-game performance. The senior finished the day with 10 catches for 240 yards, surpassing Kelly's program and Big South single-game record set during last year's Stony Brook game in Lynchburg (235 yards).
Norrell led all Stony Brook receivers with five catches for 85 yards, followed by Gush's four receptions for 43 yards.
Brandon Robinson, another of Liberty's seniors who played their final career games on Saturday, finished of his career in record fashion. He led the Flames with 15 tackles, setting a new career single-game high.
Chris Mayo followed behind with 13 stops, also a new single-game career high, while Walt Aikens and KaJuan Lee each had seven stops.
Stony Brook's defensive effort was paced by Al-Majid Hutchins, while had 11 tackles, including 10 solo stops.
Liberty's 17-member senior class finishes its four-year run on Liberty Mountain as the second winningest senior class in program history. They posted a 33-12 record, including a 20-3 mark in Big South play, which led to three conference titles (2008, 2009 and 2010). They are only the third senior class in program history to win 30 or more games during their careers.