STONY BROOK, N.Y. — The irony is that if Tyler Pastula’s punt hadn’t been so good, things might have worked out better for Delaware.
Instead, though, the Blue Hen punter pinned Stony Brook down at its one yard line on his first kick of the day.
That made Delaware’s defense feel like it should be aggressive — and maybe even get a big play right off the bat.
But what the Hens got instead was the Seawolves’ Ty Son Lawton running straight up the middle and not stopping until he reached the opposite end zone 99 yards later.
The back-breaking play put No. 14 Delaware in a hole it never climbed out of as the Hens eventually fell to struggling Stony Brook, 34-17, in a CAA football game at LaVelle Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The second-straight conference loss for Delaware (2-2 CAA, 3-3 overall) dims its NCAA FCS playoff chances even more and was another reminder that the Hens’ spring success hasn’t translated to the fall season.
“I expected us to play better today,” coach Danny Rocco said as he sat outside the Delaware locker room. “It was obviously a football game for the vast majority of the day out here.
“But I told the team here in the locker room, you give up a 99-yard run to start the game and you finish the game with a strip sack for basically a touchdown and (then) a muffed punt, you’re not a very good football team. That’s the bottom line right now — we’re not a very good football team. If we were, we’d be playing better.”
As for Lawton’s 99-yard TD run — which of course matched the longest ever against the Hens — Rocco said he thinks the Hens saw a chance for a quick big play and got too aggressive.
“Hindsight is a beautiful thing,” he said. “But we didn’t need to be as aggressive with our front right there. If the ball would have come down on the four instead of the one, we would have been in a totally different defense and that play would have died with about a five-yard gain.
“We got a little bit greedy in maybe wanting to get them in the end zone, maybe trying to get a safety to start the game.”
Lawton, who finished with 192 yards and two TDs on 22 carries, seemed to take particular pleasure in beating the Hens. who dumped the Seawolves (1-3 CAA, 2-5 overall) by a 31-3 margin in the spring.
“Coach ‘P’ and all the coaches really dislike Delaware,” said Lawton, presumably referring to Stony Brook head coach Chuck Priore. “So it was a statement game.”
With all that in mind, it actually looked like Delaware might pull out a victory for a big part of the second half.
There were 13 seconds left in the third quarter when the Hens closed within 20-17 when quarterback Zach Gwynn hooked up with receiver Thyrick Pitts on a 28-yard touchdown pass. It was the second scoring pass that Gwynn (15-for-29, 199 yards) threw to Pitts (7 catches-115 yards) in the game.
Delaware’s defense then forced Stony Brook to punt on its next three possessions. But the Hens never put together another scoring drive.
Finally, with Delaware backed up on its own 20, Gwynn was sacked and fumbled, setting up the Seawolves at the one. QB Tyquell Fields scored from there, as Stony Brook’s lead grew to 27-17 with 6:21 left.
The final miscue came when punt returner Jourdan Townsend misplayed a punt, muffing it into the end zone where the Seawolves recovered it for yet another TD with 1:43 on the clock.
“It’s really tough,” said Pitts. “That’s two weeks in a row we lose because of critical errors at the end of the game. All we can do is keep fighting and get ready for next week.
“In this conference, it’s so competitive and there’s so many good teams, you just can’t have those type of errors and expect to win a game. We’ve got a lot of soul-searching to do as a team.”
“It comes down to being to execute when your number is called,” said linebacker Johnny Buchanan. “Those critical mistakes will lose you a game as we’ve seen the last two weeks.”
Perhaps the icing on the cake was that Gwynn had to leave the game late in the contest after taking a hard hit on a running play. Sophomore Cade Pribula ended up taking a few snaps late in the game.
And up next is CAA giant James Madison, which Delaware hosts for Homecoming next Saturday.
Right now, the Hens’ national semifinal run in the spring seems like a lifetime ago.
“To say we’re a little out of sync would be an understatement, but that’s kind of what it is,” said Rocco. “We’re just not playing with that same sense of execution. We were a team last year that never shot ourselves in the foot.
“Tonight, three or four plays were just catastrophic, all randomly different. There’s no theme to it. They’re just bad-looking plays and you’re going to have a hard time winning games if you do any one of those three things.”
Delaware converted on just 4-of-15 third-down situations. ...Senior Dejoun Lee finished with 91 yards on 15 carries, including a 43-yard gain. ... Linebacker Colby Reeder finished with a team-high 10 tackles, including a sack. Chase McGowan added two sacks while safety Noah Plack made nine tackles. ... Running quarterback Anthony Paoletti, who had hardly thrown a pass in his career, got to throw a deep ball on Saturday. But it fell incomplete.