Stony Brook Football Season In Review

Ralph Menendez rushed for eight touchdowns in 1999
 
Ralph Menendez rushed for eight touchdowns in 1999
 
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Fall 1999

Stony Brook, NY - November 26, 1999, marked a turning point in Seawolves football history. Stony Brook was concluding its first season of competition at the Division I-AA level against the top-ranked defensive team, St. John's, in the biggest game of the season.

As it turned out, USB would control the game from beginning to end, scoring on its first drive for the first time of the season en route to a 28-6 victory over the Red Storm. After an up-and-down season during which the Seawolves compiled a 5-5 overall record, 4-3 in the Northeast Conference, the St. John's win was the perfect ending to Stony Brook's Division I-AA debut in 1999.

The Seawolves took the field for the first time on September 11 at home against Wagner. NEC Offensive Player of the Year Rick Sarille rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Seahawks to a 24-12 victory. After a scoreless first quarter, Wagner got on the board first when USB quarterback Oscar Alcantara was sacked, forcing a fumble that Wagner recovered at the USB 16-yard line. Sarille notched his first touchdown of the afternoon to give Wagner the 7-0 lead.

Midway through the third quarter, the Seahawks' defense struck again when QB Brian Stanley, reinserted into the lineup for Alcantara, was intercepted and Wagner returned it 10 yards for the touchdown. USB responded with a seven-play, 66-yard drive that culminated in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Stanley to junior WR Kevin Csoka, bringing the Seawolves to within 14-6. Early in the fourth quarter, Stanley connected with Lucas Niskanen on a 56-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Down only 14-12, Stanley was once again intercepted and Sarille scored his second touchdown for the 21-12 lead. The Seahawks' field goal with 2:30 remaining closed out the scoring.

Wagner limited Stony Brook to just 30 rushing yards for the game. In his first start as a collegian, Stanley was 10-30 for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

Stony Brook notched its first-ever win at the Division I-AA level and its first NEC victory when the Seawolves knocked off Monmouth, 7-3, in their next outing after an open weekend. Stony Brook rolled up 392 yards of total offense, 267 on the ground, to lead to the win. Monmouth led 3-0 at halftime after the Hawks connected on a 22-yard field goal. But USB took control in the third quarter, piling up the yards behind senior James Crawford and Alcantara, who made his first collegiate start at quarterback. With 5:50 remaining in the third, Crawford capped an eight-play, 57-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown to give the Seawolves the 7-3 lead. The Hawks had several opportunities to win in the last three minutes, but failed after throwing three incomplete passes.

Alcantara finished with 223 all-purpose yards, and the USB defense limited Monmouth to just 149 yards of total offense.

The Seawolves faced archrival Albany on October 2. The Great Danes forced six USB turnovers and QB Mike Oliva threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more to lead Albany to a 44-21 victory. Oliva scored two touchdowns within six minutes in the first quarter for the 13-0 lead. Stony Brook countered in the second quarter when Alcantara scampered in four yards to cut the lead to 13-7. But Albany put two more scores on the board for a 27-7 halftime lead. Oliva, who had 323 of his team's 484 yards, scored again to open the third quarter and give Albany an insurmountable 34-7 edge.

Stanley, who relieved Alcantara in the fourth quarter, rushed for a touchdown and connected with David Kopp for another for the final 44-21 score.

The Seawolves rebounded in their next outing against Sacred Heart, defeating the Pioneers 48-21. Ralph Menendez had three touchdowns in the first half and Lucas Niskanen had two to lead Stony Brook to a 35-0 lead at the half. James Kandziolka added a field goal in the third quarter and Rob Vitucci scored on a 16-yard run to stretch the lead to 45-0.

The Pioneers finally got on the board with just two seconds remaining in the third as Kiheme Cowan ran in three yards for Sacred Heart's first score. The Pioneers added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter and Kandziolka connected on a 23-yard field goal for the final score, a misleading 48-21.

Menendez rushed for 207 yards and was named NEC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance while Vitucci had 106. Niskanen caught four passes for 41 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Spizzo and Kostkowicz led the Seawolves with 10 tackles apiece.

Stony Brook had the next week off before traveling to face C.W. Post, where USB fell 44-20 to the Pioneers. Post opened up a 21-6 halftime lead with Menendez notching the only Seawolves score on a 61-yard run at 12:43.

Dan Bertzos and Kevin Csoka brought the Seawolves to within 21-20 at the end of the third quarter. But that would be as close as Stony Brook could get. The Pioneers scored four fourth-quarter touchdowns to put the game away. Menendez again led Stony Brook in rushing yards with 102.

Menendez continued his stellar play against Central Connecticut, as the junior rushed for 191 yards and one touchdown to lead the Seawolves to a 27-14 win at home. Stony Brook had 352 total yards and allowed the Blue Devils just 175 to lead to its third win of the season. The Seawolves jumped out to a 27-0 lead in the first half. Niskanen opened the scoring off a pass from Alcantara on a fourth-and-goal. On the next possession, Pat Shelley picked off CCSU QB Keith Toolan's pass and returned it 18 yards to the Central Connecticut 30-yard line. Stanley ran in from three yards out for the score. Menendez's 53-yard run in the second quarter gave the Seawolves a 21-20 advantage. Alcantara connected with Niskanen on the Seawolves' final possession of the half. The Blue Devils blocked the point after attempt and took the kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown with just seven seconds remaining to cut the lead to 27-7. CCSU closed out the scoring in the fourth quarter as Toolan plunged over the middle for a one-yard score. USB harassed Toolan all day long, forcing an interception, four sacks and five pass break-ups.

The Seawolves next traveled cross-country on its first-ever trip to California for a matchup with San Diego. San Diego scored on three of its first four possessions en route to a 20-9 victory as USB fell to 3-4 on the season. The Seawolves didn't get on the board until Kandziolka connected on a 24-yard field goal with 20 seconds remaining in the second quarter to draw within 17-3. Stanley's eight-yard pass to Niskanen with two minutes left in the game closed out the scoring.

The Torreros rolled up 268 yards on the ground. Bertzos and Kostkowicz led the Seawolves defensively with 10 tackles each.

The Seawolves picked up their fourth win of the season against St. Francis (Pa.), knocking off the Red Flash 24-6. Stony Brook got two touchdowns from Ralph Menendez and held St. Francis to 74 yards rushing on the afternoon. Crawford's nine-yard touchdown run got USB on the board first late in the first quarter, but three Seawolves turnovers kept the game close. St. Francis recovered a fumble in the second quarter to set up its first scoring drive and draw within 7-6. Right before the half, Stanley engineered a 48-yard drive that resulted in Kandziolka's 28-yard field goal for a 10-6 halftime edge.

Stony Brook extended the lead in the third quarter as Menendez ran for two touchdowns, putting the Seawolves up 24-6. Menendez finished with 95 yards rushing on the day, while USB limited the Red Flash to just 74 yards rushing. John Phelan led the defense with 10 tackles. Stanley connected on 12-of-16 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown. He also had a career-high 66 yards on the ground. Josh Davies had punts of 64 and 65 yards, earning him NEC Rookie of the Week honors.

Coming off an impressive win, the Seawolves suffered their worst loss in their next outing at Robert Morris. The Colonials racked up three touchdowns before Menendez ran for two consecutive scores, bringing the Seawolves to within 21-13. But RMC scored 29 straight points, building a 50-13 lead. Senior Bastanial Elleston scored the first touchdown of his career when he caught an 18-yard pass from Stanley, resulting in the final 50-19 score.

Heading into its last and biggest home game of the season against St. John's, Stony Brook had a 4-5 record and hopes of finishing its first season at Division I-AA with a .500 record. Behind senior James Crawford's 104 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the day, the Seawolves did just that, much to the ecstasy of the home crowd.

On USB's first play from scrimmage, the Seawolves ran a reverse pass with Niskanen taking the reverse and firing a strike downfield to Csoka for a 39-yard gain to the Red Storm 41-yard line. Crawford then racked up 25 yards on the next two carries before a sack and an incomplete pass left USB with a fourth-and-nine from the St. John's 21. Instead of opting for a field goal try, the Seawolves went for it with Crawford catching a screen pass fromStanley and running 21 yards for the touchdown. The point after was good, giving USB the 7-0 lead.

In the second quarter, Crawford set up USB's second touchdown, taking a handoff and racing 54 yards to the Red Storm 12-yard line. On the next play, the Seawolves got a break when Crawford fumbled the handoff and inadvertantly kicked the ball into the end zone where Csoka fell on it for USB's second touchdown of the game, giving the Seawolves the 14-0 halftime lead.

Stony Brook extended the lead to 21-0 in the third when Nisakanen and Csoka hooked up on another trick play. Niskanen caught a lateral from Stanley and then connected with Csoka on a 57-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Niskanen finished the day with two completions for 96 yards and one score.

St. John's got on the board late in the third quarter when Peter Dileo made a spectacular catch in the corner of the endzone to get the Red Storm within 21-6. Crawford helped seal the win for the Seawolves in the final period, scoring his second touchdown of the game on a four-yard scamper with 11:53 remaining in the contest.

The Seawolves rushing attack was the difference in the game, totaling 223 yards on the ground against the much-heralded St. John's defense. The win marked the first time the Seawolves have finished .500 or better since the 1996 season, when they went 6-4 on the year.

Three Seawolves received All-NEC accolades as senior defensive tackle John Kostkowicz, senior free safety Pat Shelley and junior offensive lineman Tom Marshall were all named to the second team. Kostkowicz led the team with 69 total tackles and his 17.5 career sacks is second in Stony Brook history. Shelley's six interceptions was sixth-best in the nation, while his nine career interceptions ranks him sixth on the Seawolves all-time list. Marshall anchored an offensive line that helped Stony Brook rush for 187.7 yards per game, second-best in the NEC.

As the Seawolves look ahead to the future and to the day when Stony Brook is a respected and legitimate program throughout Division I athletics, the Seawolves football team closed out their season by giving everyone a glimpse of things to come.