Stony Brook proves it's arrived in the CAA, just in time for another big test

(STATS) - There have been other signature wins from a Stony Brook program with a pair of FCS playoff appearances in the last three seasons to its credit. But perhaps none has raised more eyebrows - and expectations - more than Saturday's 31-6 drubbing of New Hampshire at LaValle Stadium.

Sure, the Wildcats, ranked 13th in the STATS FCS Top 25 at game time, were without starting quarterback Sean Goldrich and played on the road for a third straight week. Still, no asterisk needs to be attached to a result that's finally given the Seawolves the validation they've been seeking since joining the formidable CAA in 2013.

"This is a step that Stony Brook football needed to take," coach Chuck Priore said. "We've been in a lot of games, but the reality of it is that we figured out how not to worry about losing and how to understand how to win and tonight was that explanation point."

The climb from the Big South, where the Seawolves dominated during their five-year tenure, to one of the FCS' premier leagues has no doubt been steep. Stony Brook finished 3-5 in conference play in their CAA debut and were 4-4 last season.

Armed with one the subdivision's nastiest defenses and a running game that overwhelmed New Hampshire at the point of attack, the Seawolves appeared ready to take that long-awaited step forward in 2015. Now they've got the one piece of evidence that was absent from the resume - a convincing win over one of the conference's flagship programs.

Count Wildcats head coach Sean McDonnell among the believers.

"They're the best defense in the league," he said after the Seawolves held New Hampshire to 75 rushing yards and 253 total. They added six sacks, including 3 1-2 from standout end Victor Ochi, a legitimate candidate to be the first Stony Brook player ever to be selected in the NFL draft.

The Seawolves' offense controlled the line of scrimmage as well, with Stacey Bedell accounting for 193 of the team's 228 rushing yards.

Stony Brook (2-0, 1-0 CAA) gets another litmus test this week when it visits another of the CAA's traditional powers in William & Mary. The Tribe (1-1) gave Virginia all it could handle in a 35-29 loss in Charlottesville last Saturday.

William & Mary dealt the Seawolves a 27-21 overtime loss in Long Island last season, one of several close defeats Stony Brook endured in 2014 and another area in which Priore believes his team has turned the corner.

"The biggest thing that I saw in (last week's) practice is they expected to win," he said. "It wasn't that hope we win factor. The expectation was to win the game. They came and showed that when they took the field for four quarters."

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The CAA's other major Week 3 storyline took place in Villanova, where the 5th-ranked Wildcats overcame a knee injury to reigning FCS offensive player of the year John Robertson to rally for a 28-21 victory over archrival Delaware. Redshirt freshman Zack Bednarczyk took over at quarterback midway through the fourth quarter and engineered two touchdown drives to bring Villanova (2-1, 1-0 CAA) back from a 21-14 deficit.

"I can't say enough for Zack to come in cold like that at quarterback," Wildcats head coach Andy Talley said. "To do what he did is probably as good a quarterbacking job as we've had with the second guy going in and figuring out how to help you win the game both with his arm and with his feet."

Bednarczyk, who had a passing and rushing touchdown while completing 4 of 6 throws for 57 yards, will make his first start in Thursday's clash with local foe Penn. Robertson will be out indefinitely, recovering from a torn posterior cruciate ligament that he hopes to rehab, as opposed to going under the knife.

"He has the same stuff John has," Talley said. "He can throw, he can run. He's as fast as John is, he's a really good runner. What he doesn't have is a total grasp of the offense for the last four years. John was a master of our offense."

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EXTRA POINTS=

Towson running back Darius Victor took over the FCS lead in rushing yards after netting a career-high 207 with three touchdowns in the Tigers' 29-26 win over Holy Cross. Victor, now with 437 yards through three games, is the first Tiger to eclipse the 200-yard mark since current Tennessee Titan Terrance West had 354 against Eastern Illinois in the 2013 FCS quarterfinals. ... James Madison's prolific offense kept on rolling in Saturday's 42-28 home conference win over Albany, piling up 625 yards and a school-record 40 first downs. The Dukes (3-0, 1-0 CAA), ninth in this week's STATS FCS Top 25, lead the subdivision in total offense (652.0 ypg) and rank second in rushing offense (328.3 ypg). ... Richmond's defense delivered a banner day during the 19th-ranked Spiders' 42-10 rout of VMI in Saturday's home opener. The unit recorded four interceptions - two from safety David Jones - and forced five turnovers that led to 35 points. Cornerback Ayo Ogunniyi and linebacker Madison Day both had interception returns for touchdowns, the first time Richmond (2-1) has taken back two picks for scores in one game since 2008.

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