Saturday, September 30, 2023

Elon Pulls Off a Stunner, Keeping William & Mary at Bay

ELON – On Saturday afternoon in Rhodes Stadium, the Elon University Football team put on a defensive masterclass, leaving the previously undefeated William & Mary Tribe scratching their heads as they failed to find the end zone. The Phoenix pulled off an astonishing victory, beating The Tribe 14-6 in a nail-biting game that had fans on the edge of their seats. With this win, Elon now stands alone at the top of the CAA Football standings, boasting a perfect 3-0 record within the conference (3-2 overall), while William & Mary drops to 4-1 on the season with a 2-1 conference record.

The game was an absolute thriller, played in front of a raucous crowd of 12,705 fans, making it the third-highest attendance in the history of Rhodes Stadium. Elon's home game-winning streak now stands at an impressive eight, going back to the 2021 season. It's worth noting that the Elon community has shown immense support, contributing to two of the biggest attendances in stadium history during the first two home games of 2023, with 11,275 fans turning up for the North Carolina A&T game just two weeks ago.

This victory is a milestone for Elon, marking their second win against a top-5 ranked program in school history. The last time they achieved this feat was in 2018 when they triumphed over No. 2 James Madison on the road.

How It All Went Down

The game got underway with William & Mary punting on their first possession, but a surprise turnover by Elon gave The Tribe a golden opportunity to take the lead early. William & Mary pushed hard and managed to get to the Elon 1-yard line, but Caleb Curtain's fantastic tackle kept running back Malachi Imoh just inches away from the goal line, keeping the game scoreless.

The second quarter saw William & Mary take a 6-0 lead with a couple of well-executed field goals. Elon did have a chance in the third quarter, but a missed field goal was the closest they came to scoring in the second half.

Then came the turning point. Jaidyn Denis intercepted a pass from Darius Wilson with just 1:49 left in the third quarter and ran it back 21 yards, putting Elon in a prime position at the William & Mary 30-yard line. As the fourth quarter began, Elon's offense started to click. On a crucial third-and-9 play from the 16-yard line, Matthew Downing found Chandler Brayboy for a touchdown, putting the Phoenix ahead 7-6 with 13:33 left in the game.

William & Mary tried to mount a comeback but ended up punting on their next drive, pinning Elon at the 6-yard line. Facing a challenging third-and-two from the 14-yard line, Downing connected with Brayboy again, this time for an incredible 76-yard gain. Elon sealed the deal three plays later as Downing hooked up with Jamarien Dalton for an 8-yard touchdown pass. William & Mary had one last shot, driving into the Elon red zone, but they fell short on fourth-and-three from the 12-yard line, with Cazeem Moore and Denis making a crucial tackle. Elon ran out the clock with two kneel-downs to secure the win.

Impressive Performances and Stats

Matthew Downing had a stellar day, completing 14 of 20 passes for 187 yards and tossing two crucial fourth-quarter touchdowns. Jalen Hampton led Elon's rushing attack with 13 carries for 74 yards, averaging an impressive 5.7 yards per carry. Chandler Brayboy was the standout receiver, becoming the first Elon player this season to break the 100-yard mark with four catches for 109 yards.

On the defensive side, Caleb Curtain and Marco Patierno had standout performances, each racking up a career-high 11 tackles. Curtain also added a sack, while Patierno had 1.5 tackles for loss. Marvin Pearson was a force to be reckoned with, tallying six tackles, a sack, and putting constant pressure on the quarterback with three hurries. Arthur Nwandu contributed 1.5 tackles for loss, and Brandon Tyson forced a critical fumble.

In the punting game, Kyle Romenick averaged a whopping 47.0 yards on four punts, including one inside the 20-yard line. William & Mary dominated on the ground, amassing 307 rushing yards but struggled through the air, managing just 36 passing yards. Elon, on the other hand, balanced their attack, accumulating 115 rushing yards and 187 passing yards. William & Mary's 36 passing yards marked the lowest yardage by an Elon opponent since November 24, 2018.

Elon's head coach, Tony Trisciani, celebrated a significant milestone, improving his record to 23-22 as a head coach. The win marks Elon's seventh consecutive CAA victory, dating back to 2022. Furthermore, Elon boasts an impressive record of 14-5 in their last 19 CAA games and has the most conference wins in the CAA since the start of the 2021 season.

What's Next?

Elon is now gearing up for another exciting matchup as they return home to face another formidable opponent. Next Saturday, the Phoenix will welcome No. 15/13 NC Central to Rhodes Stadium for a 2 p.m. kick-off. It promises to be another thrilling showdown as Elon continues its impressive journey through the 2023 season.