First look: Cats host tough, talented Seawolves

BOZEMAN — Like Montana State, Stony Brook has faced its share of struggles on the football field this season. None of that, though,  remotely compares to what the area and University of that name has faced away from football.

Among the areas hit hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, Long Island, N.Y. — home of the Stony Brook community and the University which bears its name — spent more than a month recovering from the late October natural disaster that beset the area. Many in the region were without power for nearly two weeks, including Seawolves coaches and many of the athletic program’s officials.

But as Stony Brook football Sports Information Director Adam Gutes says, “New Yorkers are tough.”

Rob Ash applies that attribute to the Seawolves football team, as well. Stony Brook brings a 10-2 record to Bozeman for a 2012 NCAA Division I Football Playoff second round game on Saturday after whipping Villanova 20-10 in the first round. Stony Brook pounded Villanova’s defense for 263 yards on the ground, throwing only three passes all game. Star running back Miguel Maysonet, the nation’s fifth-ranked rusher, gained 160 yards and scored twice.

“Stony Brook is a very good, very talented football team,” said Montana State coach Rob Ash. “They are big and strong on offense, and really like to control the ball with an excellent running game. They have two running backs (Maysonet and Marcus Coker, an Iowa transfer) that are fabulous and complement each other very well, a really outstanding receiver (Washington State transfer Kevin Norrell) and a quarterback (Kyle Essington, who missed the Villanova game with an injury) who is very efficient, and who we expect to play Saturday.”

Maysonet (5-10, 210, sr.) averages 156.8 yards a game on the ground, with Coker (6-0, 230, jr.) chipping in 80 yards an outing. Essington (6-2, 190, sr.) throws for 173.6 yards per game – 108.5 each outing to Norrell – but boasts a pass efficiency rating of 175.83.

Ash is also impressed with the Seawolves’ defense, a unit which stands fifth in the FCS in scoring defense and total defense. Linebacker Jawara Dudley (6-1, 225, jr.) and safeties Cedrick Moore (5-11, 205, sr.) and Dominick Reyes (6-4, 210, sr.) are that unit’s top tacklers. Dudley has three sacks while Reyes has seven tackles for loss. Defensive end Leston Simpson, a pass rushing force, has four sacks and 10 tackles for loss, with two hurries and a pass breakup.

“They are really talented on defense,” Ash said. “They just line up and play fast. In that way, they remind me of us.”

In fact, several similarities emerge between the Stony Brook and MSU programs. Each team is a veteran squad – Stony Brook brings 22 seniors to Bozeman this weekend, five more than the Bobcats – and benefits from not only experience in the FCS Playoffs but success. The Seawolves own a pair of wins in the past two seasons, a victory at Albany that preceded a season-ending loss at Sam Houston State last year, and last week’s win over Villanova.

The Bobcats spent their week without a game healing physically and focusing on themselves. Ash likes what he’s seen. “We had good practices, very focused,” Ash said. “We still have some bumps and bruises, but I think the team is excited about the opportunity it faces.”

Kickoff Saturday is at 5 pm. Tickets sold at a brisk pace Monday, but seats remain in all seating areas and price ranges. For information, call the Bobcat Ticket Office (406/994-2287). The game is broadcast on ESPN3 on the internet, and is also available on ESPN’s Game Plan on cable and satellite systems.

 — MSU Sports Information