CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern (1-3) finishes their three-game road trip by heading to Long Island and opening up Big South Conference play with the defending Big South Champion Stony Brook Seawolves Saturday evening for a 6:00 p.m. kick at Kenneth P. LeValle Stadium
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Saturday will be the fifth all-time meeting between the Buccaneers and the Seawolves. Charleston Southern is 1-3 against Stony Brook all-time with the lone victory coming back in 2009 when the Bucs won 30-27 in overtime at Buccaneer Field.
Charleston Southern is coming off a bye week after picking up their first victory of the season with a 23-20 win over Shorter University two weeks ago. Coach Jay Mills and the Bucs have had an extra week to prepare for a talented Stony Brook squad that is fresh off a 23-3 beating of Army. The victory was the first Stony Brook win against an FBS opponent in the program’s history.
Stony Brook went a perfect 6-0 during Big South play last season en route to a third-consecutive conference title. In the last three seasons, the Seawolves are 16-2 against Big South opponents. CSU head coach, Jay Mills spoke on the prestige of the Seawolves’ program, "They’re definitely an outstanding football team. We have a lot of respect for them and always have. They do things the right way. They play hard, and they’re very physical."
The CSU defense will have one of its toughest assignments of the season trying to slow down Stony Brook, the top offense in the Big South. The run-defense will be an essential focus for the Bucs against the run-heavy attack of the Seawolves who bring out two talented running backs with last year’s Big South Player of the Year, Miguel Maysonet, and Iowa-transfer, Marcus Coker. CSU allowed 317 yards on the ground to Shorter University two weeks ago partially due to the fact that the Bucs’ offense struggled to consistently sustain drives. Shorter dominated time-of-possesion, controlling the football for over 34 minutes. Although the defense was worn down, the Bucs came up with a game-changing, fourth-down stop late in the fourth quarter while backed up inside their own 15 yard-line. The stop turned away the Hawks who were looking to take the lead with a touchdown. In order to slow down the Seawolves, the Bucs will need more gutsy stops this Saturday like the fourth-down stand at Shorter two weeks ago.
Charles James is looking for his 12th career interception which would be a new Charleston Southern record. James is currently tied with Philip Ashley who collected eleven interceptions for the Bucs from 2006 to 2009. James grabbed his only interception of the season against Illinois three weeks ago to tie the school record.
Although the Stony Brook offense gets the majority of the attention, the defense has also been the best in the Big South this season. The Seawolves are the conference-leaders in points allowed per game (17.2), yards allowed per game (303) as well as pass defense (144 yds/g) and rush defense (159 yds/g). Last week, SBU allowed 273 yards on the ground from the Army option-offense but held Army to only three points. Stony Brook was backed up into the redzone four times but only allowed one field goal and no touchdowns. The Seawolves’ defensive performance against an FBS opponent earned the entire defense Big South Defensive Player of the Week honors.
The Seawolves are led defensively by Pre-Season All-Big South Linebacker Jawara Dudley and Junior cornerback Davonte Anderson. Dudley led the team in tackles a season ago and has led the Seawolves in tackles this year. The junior linebacker will make his 25th consecutive start for the Seawolves on Saturday. Anderson leads the team with two interceptions while his six career-interceptions are the most all-time at Stony Brook since the program turned to Division-I back in 1999.
The Buccaneers’ task this weekend is clear, but not easy. Slow down Maysonet and stop Coker. If CSU can slow the Seawolves’ ground-attack, Stony Brook will be forced to look to the passing game which has been considerably less reliable than their running backs. The more SBU throws, the more opportunities Charleston Southern’s top corners in James and Damian Dixon will have to intercept Stony Brook who threw four interceptions in the first four games.
The Buccaneers will look to continue this Saturday with a run-heavy offense featuring several different backs. Against Shorter, there were nine different CSU players who carried the football for a total of 185 yards. Trey Dorsey led the Bucs with 16 carries and 52 yards last game against the Hawks. Although the passing game was not consistently successful two weeks ago (2-9, 60 yards), Malcom Dixon did connect with Chase Jones for a 46-yard touchdown pass to spark the offense. The Bucs’ style of offense prevents them from having a true, balanced attack, but CSU will need to connect on a few passes this Saturday to keep the Seawolves from loading up the box and solely defending the run.
Stony Brook brings out the top offense in the Big South, and one of the top offenses in the nation. After the graduation of one-thousand-yard-rusher, Brock Jackolski, last year, the Seawolves ground game looked to be slightly less potent coming into 2012. In the off-season, Coach Chuck Priore added Marcus Coker, a transfer from the University of Iowa, to fill the void left by Jackolski. The junior running back rushed for over 2,000 yards in two years as a Hawkeye. Coker joins the Pre-Season Big South Offensive Player of the Year, Miguel Maysonet, in the backfield. Maysonet, the reigning Big South Offensive Player of the Week, is coming off a career-high, 220-yard rushing performance against Army.
Maysonet and Coker are the main horses in an offense that is currently fourth in the nation in rushing (317 yds/g) while leading the Big South in points per game (39.6) and total yards per game (469). Even with the run-heavy offense, the Seawolves also have a Pre-Season All Big South selection under center with second-year starting quarterback Kyle Essington. The senior signal-caller is not a main focus of the offense, but has still put together close to 150 yards per game through the air with seven touchdowns.
This Saturday, the Bucs will have to find a way to sustain drives and keep the Stony Brook, high-powered offense on the sidelines. Expect a quickly played game with two offenses that run the football the majority of the time.
The Buccaneers will have to play the field position game and rely on punter Cameron Mitchell to pin the Seawolves deep in their own territory. The longer the field Stony Brook has to drive, the better the chance CSU’s defense will have to make stops. Mitchell is averaging 35.5 yards per punt.
Stony Brook has punted less times (16) than any other team in the Big South. Place kicker, Wesley Skiffington is a perfect 17-of-17 in PATs and 6-of-6 in field goal tries with a long of 44 yards. Skiffington knocked down three field goals and two PATs last week against Army to earn Big South, Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
Maysonet and Adrian Coxson will return kicks for the Seawolves who have not scored a special teams touchdown this season.
The Buccaneers will need mistake-free football this Saturday to try to upset Stony Brook. Coach Mills narrowed it down to two key factors, "We’re going to have to play our best football going into this weekend, in all three phases. Special teams is going to be crucial and of course, ball security."