"I thought today we were awful," said USF coach Charlie Strong, whose team has struggled in each of its first two games. "I didn't think we played very well at all."
USF (2-0) was held in check for three quarters, but got a 65-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Quinton Flowers to wide receiver Tyre McCants to take the lead with 11:23 left in the game.
"We've played two games and we've yet to play four quarters," said Strong, whose team trailed 16-0 at San Jose State last week before winning 42-22. "Last week we didn't wake up until the second quarter. This week we didn't really wake up until the fourth quarter."
Stony Brook (0-1) had tied the game at 17 with 13:04 left on a 54-yard touchdown run by running back Stacey Bedell.
The Seawolves got the ball with a chance to tie late, but did so from its 2-yard line with three minutes to play. It was only when cornerback Mazzi Wilkins intercepted a pass with 2:38 left that the win was sealed for USF. The Bulls added a late touchdown with 1:40 left by running back Darius Tice, his second of the game, and got another interception with 11 seconds left.
"What I preach to our team, and told anybody that asked, is I want (USF) to have to coach in the fourth quarter," Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore said.
"In the fourth quarter I looked up, and it was 17-17, and they were coaching. I think that's certainly something we played for, but we play for a win also and we didn't get the win. At the end of the day, we didn't succeed in our total goal."
Flowers completed 19 of 32 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns, also rushing for 67 yards.
Things went Stony Brook's way from the start.
USF went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Seawolves' 27, and it looked like Flowers went in for a touchdown, but after review, it was determined he went down at the 29, negating the score and turning the ball over on downs.
Stony Brook took a 7-0 lead on a blocked punt, as receiver Andrew Trent blocked Jonathan Hernandez's punt in the end zone, with defensive back Augie Contressa falling on the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
USF answered with a 73-yard touchdown drive, capped by Tice's 1-yard scoring run to tie the game at 7.
Stony Brook not only kept Flowers and USF's vaunted offense in check, but took another lead, driving into Bulls territory in the second quarter and going ahead on Alex Lucansky's 36-yard field goal with 4:02 left in the half.
Flowers threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling with 2:43 left in the third quarter for the Bulls' first lead at 14-10.
After a 46-yard punt return by Tajee Fullwood, the Bulls had to settle for a 33-yard Emilio Nadelman field goal to extend their lead to 17-10 lead entering the fourth quarter.