The Air Force Falcons begin their 2018 football campaign at home on September 1st when they host the Seawolves of Stony Brook. Opening up the season with a Football Championship Series opponent has become the norm for the Falcons in recent years and they have had great success in these match-ups. However, this year’s opponent could be a real test for the Falcons early.
Just who are these Stony Brook Seawolves? Last year’s team finished 10-3 under Head Coach Chuck Priore and lost in the FCS quarterfinals to James Madison. This year, the team is ranked 22nd in the preseason American Football Coaches Association poll and return eight starters on an offense that averaged just under 30 points per game and displayed a balanced attack with 161.2 yards per game rushing and 190 yards per game passing under now senior quarterback Joe Carbone. Carbone threw for 23 touchdowns last season to lead Seawolves to a fantastic season.
And while stats serve as a good barometer of how a team performs, there is nothing like solid word of mouth to give you an idea of what a team, especially a team that most fans in Colorado Springs have very little to no idea about, is bringing to the table. Thanks to the virtual superhighway, contributor Nicholas Esposito of the Greater Port Jeff was able to give Air Force fans a glimpse of what kind of team Stony Brook brings to Colorado Springs this Saturday. First topic of the interview was what kind of expectations Esposito believed faced the Seawolves in 2018.
“I believe Stony Brook will have just as successful a 2018 season as they did in 2017. The biggest reason is the development the team has undergone over the last few years. Since joining the CAA, Coach Priore and his staff have continued to attract more and more talent, which culminated in their best season ever last year. Although they lost 2017 game changers like RB Stacey Bedell, OL Timon Parris, WR Ray Bolden, they still have starting QB Joe Carbone, who has progressed each year as a starter. Last year he broke the school’s record for most completions with 204.”
The reason for Esposito being high on the 2018 version of Stony Brook more than likely begins with a swarming, attacking defense. This defense is confident as it heads into Colorado Springs to face an Air Force offense that is always one of the best in the nation. The Seawolves have been in the top five defensively for three of the past five years, really focusing on stopping the running games of its opponents. In 2017, Stony Brook only allowed 2.7 yards per carry and was 11th in the nation for FCS schools in surrendering 97 yards per game. When asked how he thought the Seawolves would match up with the triple-option attack of the Falcons, Esposito was quick to mention the front seven of Stony Brook.
“The triple option is always tough to defend, especially when it is run to perfection like the way Air Force historically runs it. With that being said, I believe the SBU will be a good matchup for Air Force since the Seawolves have been known for their fierce, attacking-style defense. In 2018, Stony Brook is returning a majority of its starting d-linemen and linebackers, and again will be ranked among the best defenses in the FCS.”
The Seawolves roster has really looked to add talent from FBS transfers. The roster is littered with five transfers from Temple, and one each from Boston College, West Virginia, Michigan and Maryland. The most important new member of the team is senior running back Jordan Gowins from Boston College. He figures to be the featured back in a balanced Stony Brook offense. But Esposito was quick to point out some of the returning talent Air Force fans will want to keep an eye on this Saturday.
“If Air Force fans haven’t seen linebacker Shayne Lawless play yet, they are in for a treat. The relentless pass rusher recorded 93 tackles and a team-high 8 sacks last season. He is a high-motor player who can frustrate any offense.”
“On offense, Stony Brook’s captain and H-Back Cal Daniels is a force. The 6-2, 255-pound back is a great blocker up and his hands can hurt you in the passing game.”
Stony Brook, from their season last season to what they bring to the table in 2018, seems to have the makings of a team that could give Air Force fits this weekend. So, as the visit ended, Esposito was asked how he thought this Saturday’s game could play out for both Stony Brook and the Falcons.
“I think it will be a tough, gritty game that will come down to the wire. If Stony Brook can limit Air Force’s offense, I think they can win a 27-24 type of game.”
Stony Brook has built up confidence in those around the program and while it seems that they have the type of team to upset Air Force, one thought come to mind when looking at this game. Stony Brook is coming to the Academy where Air Force has an fantastic home record of 50 wins and 18 losses under Head Coach Troy Calhoun. The Falcons use altitude and attitude at home to wear down opponents and as Stony Brook makes the trip from New York to Colorado Springs they will have to overcome those factors before they even step on the field.
It will be the depth of the Seawolves that will be tested, as the Falcons will come at the opponent with a mentality of a boxer. The jab is the fullback dives and quarterback keeps that look to wear down the opponent over time. And just when you think you have that controlled the Falcons will throw a haymaker off of a pitch or a rocket sweep. Add in that this year Air Force has three quality wide receivers that give the Falcons a passing threat and it seems it will be too much for Stony Brook in the end, and the Falcons will secure a 42-24 victory over the FCS visitors.