Football Readies For Season Opener On Saturday Against Lehigh
Aug. 30, 2004
Stony Brook, N.Y. -
The curtain will open on the 2004 Stony Brook football season on Saturday when the Seawolves hit the road to face Patriot League power Lehigh. Picked to finish second in the NEC this season, the Seawolves return 19 of 22 starters from one year ago and seemed poised to challenge for their first NEC title.
Both From day one in 2003, T.J. Moriarty took control under center and staked his claim as the team's leader on and off the field. Moriarty set the tone for the Seawolves attack with his strong arm and rugged running style. He finished the 2003 campaign as the NEC's top rated passer and earned first-team all-conference honors along the way. A threat both through the air and on the ground, he threw for 1,929 yards and 11 touchdowns while piling up 300 rushing yards and five TDs. In late November, Moriarty showed his leadership ability when he engineered a dramatic fourth quarter comeback that left the Stony Brook fans gasping for air. With SB trailing 31-16 late in the game, the Seawolves signal caller led his team to three straight touchdowns in the final 3:15, including an electrifying 43-yard strike to Londre Blocker for the winning score with a minute remaining. The comeback win was part of a three-game winning streak to close the 2003 season.
Battling for the back up spot will be Andrew Garrett and Josh Dudash. Garrett sat out last season after transferring from Hofstra. The 6-5, 215-pound Garrett has the look of a big-time quarterback but will need to shake off the rust of having not played in a game in over two years while Dudash is a strong armed redshirt freshman who will challenge Garrett for the backup spot in preseason camp.
The 2003 season opened with plenty of doubt at the running back spot. It took only two games for Clinton Graham to dispel any doubt who should be in the starting backfield for the Seawolves. After taking over as the starter, Graham went on to have one of the finest seasons for a running back in the history of the program. He racked up a single-season record 92 points as he bulled his way to 1,055 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. In doing so, he became the first SB running back to surpass the 1,000 yard plateau since Chris Delmadge did so in 1993. He turned in six 100-yard games and capped off his breakout season with career-high 240 yards against Iona in the season finale, setting a new Division I single-game record.
Graham gives Stony Brook a legitimate ground game to complement its passing attack and helped the Seawolves average a program-best 28.4 points per game last year. The battle for the a spot on the two-deep chart will be fierce with returners Rod Williams and Dennis Brumfield having the edge.
Blocker, a second-team All-NEC selection in 2003, returns as the team's leading receiver from a year ago. Blocker hauled in 48 passes for 716 yards and seven TDs last fall as Moriarty's main target. Blocker has the ability to make the big play as evidenced by his 43-yard game-winning touchdown grab in the final minute against Central Connecticut. He will enter 2004 ranked second all-time in career touchdown receptions and seventh in total receptions.
Alongside Blocker will be a pair of juniors who appear ready for breakout seasons. After redshirting in 2002, Josh Anderson and Khalfani Alleyne donned a Seawolf uniform for the first time last season and made an immediate impact at the receiver position. Anderson ranked second on the team in total receptions with 43 and showed a propensity for making the tough catches over the middle. Alleyne caught 22 passes in his first season of action. Junior burner Sal Davis and sophomore J.J. Cox, who opened a lot of eyes in the spring, may be big contributors as well. Michael Cosentino, along with veterans Chris Blumenstetter and Jonathan Brown provide depth at the wide receiver spot.
The Seawolves attack begins with this unit, a quintet that should rank among the finest in the league. This unit paved the way for the first 1,000-yard season for a running back in 10 years and helped Moriarty rack up the most passing yardage in the NEC. Headlining the group is first-team All-NEC selection David Charles who enters his final season having started 22 of his last 23 games at the guard position. A pair of juniors anchor the rest of the interior line spots. Matt Smith was impressive in his first season at center last year after moving over from left tackle. To the left of Smith is fellow classmate Leo Sullivan. Sullivan, at 6-3, 310 pounds, is one of the most dominating run blockers in the NEC and may be ready to be considered among the conference's elite. Both he and Smith have started all 20 games in their first two seasons at SB. Returning at right tackle is veteran Thurman Ransom who arguably may be the best offensive lineman on the team. Ransom was lost for the season with an leg injury in a preseason scrimmage last year but returns to solidify his tackle spot while on the other side, Tom Smith holds down the starting role after a solid 2003 season. Eugene Pietzak and Rich Pimentel will backup the starters in 2004.
It won't take long for newly hired defensive coordinator Vince Sinagra to discover that he has an extremely talented bunch of down linemen at his disposal. First-team All-NEC pick David Bamiro is an athletic end who harassed passers to the tune of nine sacks last season. Veterans Chimezie Okobi (4.5), Bryan Karp (3.5) and Emeka Ibekweh (5.0) all were big parts of a unit that totaled 37 sacks in 2003. All four players enter their senior season having a combined 80 starts between them over their first three years together. Add senior Ralph Horton and talented sophomore Jermaine Scott to the mix and this will be the strength of the SB defense this season. Tahir Messam, Dan Rodriguez and Kyle Brown should also push for time up front.
Last fall, Eddie Cobbinah picked up where Aden Smith left off, thus assuming the mantle of the top Stony Brook linebacker in a program that has turned out several outstanding players at the position. Cobbinah stepped into the void left by Smith who set an NEC record with 140 tackles in 2002 by turning in a 100-tackle season which ranked sixth in the NEC and tops on the team, highlighted by a 3.5 sack performance on the road at Robert Morris. He will be flanked by junior Mike Mounter. who finished second on the team with 63 tackles and had a pair of interceptions as well. Sophomore Paul Perez was converted from safety to linebacker last season and will have the opportunity to earn a starting spot this fall. Senior Clint Riggs, Eric Romeo and Dan Michitsch will backup the starting unit.
The secondary also should be the strongest it has been in years. Second-team All-NEC pick Ernie Williams is coming off a season in which he led the team with five interceptions and proved he had the ability to make the big play. In addition to his five picks, Williams also had three fumble recoveries, one of which he returned 85 yards for a touchdown. He also found paydirt against Sacred Heart, returning an interception 32 yards for a score. The secondary will be bolstered by the return of former all-conference standout Chad King. King missed all but one game in 2003 due to a shoulder injury that he suffered the previous spring. The last time King was healthy, he thrilled Seawolves fans with a NEC record seven interceptions and brought them to their feet on special teams, returning three kicks for touchdowns in the fall of 2002. The injury to King opened the door for sophomore Mike Dudley who earned his way into the starting lineup by midseason last year and quickly proved that is exactly where he should be, finishing second on the team with four interceptions. Safety Shevar Whittaker started all 10 games at safety and is expected to be the starter again in 2004. The other safety spot will come down to whoever wins the battle between Ray Goodsir, Hasan Stewart and Anthony Casale in preseason camp.
The punting duties will be handled by sophomore Sean McGinty who started all 10 games last year. Freshman Sean Forman seems to have the inside track as the starting placekicker with the departure of four-year starter Mike Soto. Look for J.J. Cox to be a big factor on kickoff and punt returns along with standout Chad King.
There are several newcomers to watch this fall.
Offense: Running back Assad Haffiz, wide receiver Rich Pennecke, wide receiver Lynell Suggs and Joe Tarasiewicz, a transfer from New Haven. Offensive lineman Steve Council is also one to watch.
Defense: Defensive lineman James Harris, defensive line transfer Kevin Halonski, linebacker corps that consists of Devar Dias, Andre Jean-Pierre, James Mason Rudolph and Chris Tomasky. In the secondary, transfer Justin Hubbard (C.W.Post) may make an impact.
There will be plenty of new faces on the sideline in 2004, a season that could hold plenty of promise. Coach Kornhauser welcomes new coordinators on both sides of the ball as Paul McGonagle brings his spread offense from Bentley where the Falcons set numerous offensive records. Sinagra makes the jump to Stony Brook after four seasons at Holy Cross to direct the Seawolves defensive unit.
Nineteen starters return from the 2003 squad and are expected to make up strongest team in the program's history, a team that will also face the most ambitious schedule in its 21-year existence. On September 4, the Seawolves open the season on the road against Patriot League power Lehigh before back-to-back conference road games against Wagner and Monmouth. Following the home opener against Robert Morris on homecoming weekend, the Seawolves play host to Atlantic-10 Hofstra on October 9, renewing the Long Island matchup that has been dormant since 1990. The games against Lehigh and Hofstra mark the first-ever meetings against a nationally ranked and Atlantic-10 opponent since Stony Brook's move to the Division I level.
For Sam Kornhauser, challenging for a title hopes to be part of season where he reaches a coaching milestone. Kornhauser is four wins away from the 100-win plateau, an achievement he hopes is just one highlight to a very special season.