STONY BROOK, N.Y. -- On Thanksgiving night, Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore had an idea. He scribbled down a play on a napkin. It wasn’t in the playbook, but he knew it would work. Even if he added it during the walk-thru a day before Saturday’s game.
The play was designed for Brock Jackolski, a senior running back who made his name playing for William Floyd High School at Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium. It called for Jackolski to fake like he was going to block the Albany safety, then break downfield. It worked exactly the way Priore drew it up.
Jackolski caught quarterback Kyle Essington’s pass wide open down the right sideline and ran in 55 yards to score and start the momentum shift that ultimately led to the Seawolves' 31-28 win over Albany on Saturday in both teams' first NCAA Division I playoff game.
“When I play, I always try to have a big game,” the senior said. “But it means even more to do it here, in Long Island at Stony Brook University.”
Jackolski transferred to Stony Brook, along with Big South Conference Player of the Year Miguel Maysonet, when Hofstra dropped its football program two years ago. With Maysonet, they’ve formed the scariest running attack in the Football Championship Subdivision. Jackolski carried 22 times for 103 yards Saturday.
He combined with Maysonet for 164 total rushing yards, the team's lowest output on the ground this season. The Seawolves went into halftime trailing 28-10. Jackolski knew he had to do something.
“In that halftime, we said that we can’t wait for a play to happen, we have to go out and make plays,” Jackolski said.
It started when he punched in a 6-yard score late in the third quarter to make it 28-17. Then he scored again on the 55-yard catch with less than two minutes left in the third after defensive back Donald Porter made a huge interception on Albany QB Dan Di Lella that closed the lead to four heading into the final period.
“He’s a playmaker, that’s all I can say,” Priore said after the game.
Jackolski gave his team the go-ahead score, his third touchdown of the game, on an 11-yard run with 12:40 left to play. He even played defense on nickel packages to provide extra help on Albany’s Ryan Kirchner, who torched SBU for 143 yards on 12 catches. Piore used Jackolski at nickelback last week, when Stony Brook topped Liberty, 41-31, to win sole possession of the Big South Conference title for the first time. Stony Brook tied Liberty for the title in 2009 and shared it with both Liberty and Coastal Carolina last season.
“I enjoy playing defense,” Jackolski said. “It brought me back to my high school days.”
Using Jackolski on defense provided more depth for the Seawolves, who has 63 scholarship players. The team didn’t even start awarding scholarships until 2005.
“Athletics, it’s overused at times as a front porch for a university,” athletic director Jim Fiore said. “When it’s going good, it’s going good for everybody. The university takes a lot of pride in the athletic program, where we are and where we’re going. I think our best days are ahead of us.”