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Pre-Snap Read: Previewing Long Island

NCAA Football: LIU at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Hopefully the third time’s the charm for a Baylor team still searching for their first win in the 2023 season. Standing in their way is an FCS opponent from New York, the Long Island University (LIU) Sharks.

Who are the LIU Sharks?

LIU joined the FCS ranks in the 2019-2020 season after combining the athletics programs of their two main campuses — LIU Post and LIU Brooklyn. Before that, they were a strong Division II team, both winning eleven conference championships and making the NCAA DII playoffs six times in twenty years under former head coach Bryan Collins.

It’s taken some time for the Sharks to acclimate to the level of FCS competition. Winless in 2019, they picked up their first two wins in the four-game 2020 COVID season. The 2021 season also featured two wins, over Central Connecticut and Wagner, and some bad losses, the 66-0 pay-the-bills game against West Virginia most relevant to Baylor. Last season, after starting the year with seven straight losses, LIU found their groove and won four straight.

LIU in 2023

Second-year head coach Ron Cooper (formerly head coach at East Michigan, 1993-1994, Louisville, 1995-1997, and Alabama A&M, 1998-2001 before most recently serving a year at the Alabama Football Staff of Misfit Coaches in 2021) has not been able to carry over the momentum from last season and has the LIU Sharks at 0-2.

LIU’s season began with an away game against the Ohio Bobcats. Their longest drives, of 54 and 43 yards, ended in a missed field goal and interception, respectively. They also had five drives without a first down. However, the Sharks were able to convert two Ohio turnovers into ten points. Ohio was content to run the ball on 75% of plays, average 4.4 yards per carry, and methodically score 27 points.

Game 2 against Bryant went a little better. LIU had two 75-yard drives culminating in a touchdown and field goal, two drives of ~50 yards that ended in turnovers, and only four drives without a first down. Unfortunately, they also allowed a quarterback throwing a smidge over 50% to average 8.1 yards per attempt, and they lost 21-10.

LIU players to watch

Quarterback #11 Luca Stanzani: Last season, Luca Stanzani took over as the primary starter and kicked off LIU’s four-game winning streak with 1,105 passing yards, a 63% completion percentage, 12 touchdowns, and three interceptions. He also added 170 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries. This season has not been kind to Stanzani, though. Following a 172 yard, one touchdown, two interception performance against Ohio, Stanzani was injured midway through the Bryant game. He’s the team’s leading rusher, and if he suits up this Saturday, Baylor needs to be ready for some scrambles.

Wide Receiver #2 Davon Wells: Davon Wells is LIU’s most dynamic skill player. He leads the team in receptions (nine), yards (131), longest reception (48 yards), touchdowns (one) and handles some of the team’s kick and punt returns. Last season he led the team in all-purpose yards and was named the team’s “Offensive Playmaker of Year”.

Defensive End #99 Eric O’Neil: Redshirt sophomore Eric O’Neil is the team’s leading pass rusher. In two games this season he has 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack for eight yards, and one interception. Last season he had 21 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, two forced fumbles, and was named the the Northeast Conference Defensive Rookie of Year.

Linebacker #8 Daylen Fuller: Daylen Fuller joined LIU this year after earning his associate’s degree at Santa Ana College. He’s the team’s leading tackler by far with 26 total tackles, and he’s just behind O’Neil with 2 tackles for loss and one sack for six yards.

Game predictions

This should be the type of game where Baylor calls their score. ESPN’s FPI gives the Bears a 99% chance to win, SP+ predicts a 51-2 win, and FEI doesn’t even have a score for this game.

Given Shapen’s injury and Robertson’s temporary injury last week, I hope we see a lot of playing time for RJ Martinez. We should also rest Richardson and get Pendergrass and Washington a healthy dose of carries. Defensively, allowing any sustained drives against our first or second string would be cause for concern.

Baylor 59, LIU 3.

Statistics courtesy of ESPN and Long Island University Athletics.