Saturday, September 16, 2023

Elon Dominates in Home Opener, Downs North Carolina A&T 27-3

ELON — Under the bright lights of Rhodes Stadium and in front of a roaring crowd of 11,257, the fifth-largest ever at the venue, the Elon University football team showcased an awe-inspiring ground game to secure a commanding 27-3 victory over in-state rival North Carolina A&T during its home opener on Saturday.

Elon's Ground Game Reigns Supreme

Elon (1-2, 1-0 CAA) unleashed an offensive onslaught on the ground, accumulating a staggering 260 rushing yards—a feat not matched since 2017 when they ran for 368 yards against Richmond. This impressive triumph marked the Phoenix's first win of the season and inaugurated their CAA campaign with a bang. On the flip side, North Carolina A&T (0-3 overall, 0-1 CAA) was left grappling with their third straight loss, unable to withstand Elon's ground assault.

Photo Credit: Peyton Williams/Tim Cowie Photography

Game Highlights

The Phoenix set the tone early, engineering a 10-play, 73-yard drive, culminating in a 26-yard touchdown connection from Matthew Downing to Jordan Bonner. It marked Bonner's second touchdown in as many games, showcasing his early-season prowess.

Elon's dominance continued late in the second quarter, with a lightning-fast three-play sequence. Jalen Hampton's remarkable 45-yard run set the stage for Wayne Dixie III to score his first career touchdown, putting the Phoenix ahead 17-0. Jack Berkowitz added a career-best 43-yard field goal just before halftime, pushing the lead to 17.

Elon's defense played a pivotal role in the opening half, forcing North Carolina A&T to punt on all six of its possessions, five of which were three-and-outs.

Berkowitz's reliable leg added another field goal in the third quarter, extending Elon's lead to 20-0. However, North Carolina A&T responded with a field goal of its own from Owen Daffer to break Elon's shutout bid.

A game-changing moment arrived courtesy of Elon's special teams late in the third quarter, as Kyle Romenick connected with true freshman DJ Hamilton on a fake punt, resulting in a spectacular 35-yard touchdown and a 27-3 advantage for the Phoenix.

Elon's defense maintained its dominance in the fourth quarter, shutting down North Carolina A&T's attempts to mount a comeback with a pair of turnover-on-downs situations.

BJ Turner led the Aggies with eleven tackles, giving the graduate transfer thirty-five so far through three weeks. Avarion Cole had an interception for the visiting team, but it was not enough to slow down an Elon offense that was 3-3 on fourth downs on the evening.

What's Next

Elon will embark on a short trip to Buies Creek for a Saturday night showdown with Campbell. Campbell, currently 2-1 on the season and 1-1 in CAA play, will host Elon in what promises to be an exciting matchup. North Carolina A&T is off next week before traveling to historic William "Dick" Price Stadium in Norfolk to take on Norfolk State on September 30.