Saturday, September 23, 2023

Elon Holds Off Campbell Comeback And Goes to 2-0 in CAA Action With 28-24 Win

BUIES CREEK – Elon and Campbell both came into Saturday evening’s game looking for momentum before tackling a tough stretch of schedule during the middle third of the football season. Although rain from Tropical Storm Ophelia kept some fans away, Barker-Lane Stadium was still rocking as these two new in-state rivals met for the first time as conference foes. By the time the clock read all zeroes, Elon was able to hold off a valiant comeback attempt by Campbell and defeat the Camels 28-24 to go to 2-0 in CAA play.

Both teams’ offenses came out with to good plays to get to midfield but had miscues that ended their opening drives. Campbell got a brief jolt of energy when VJ Wilkins’s great catch and run to get the Camels into Elon territory, but the drive fizzled out and the Camels were forced to settle for a 32-yard Caleb Dowden field goal to get on the scoreboard for the first time for the evening and the lone score of the first quarter. The bright spot was quickly overshadowed when Campbell linebacker Antoine Sampah was carted off the field with an apparent leg injury. The Camels' defense certainly missed his presence as the Phoenix were able to drive deep into Campbell territory and take the lead on a ten-yard rushing touchdown by Jalen Hampton.

Campbell had stopped Elon and was about to force a long FG try, but a personal foul penalty extended the drive and gave the Phoenix a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, Jalen Hampton dragged several Campbell defenders into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night. The next Elon drive was a repeat as another unnecessary roughness penalty gave Elon a first down in Campbell territory and Elon was able to score two plays after the penalty. Christian Da Silva took a ball around the left side of the line and was brought down at the one-yard-line and Jalen Hampton punched it in on the next play for his third score of the quarter.

Elon came out of the half determined to extend their lead and even gambled on a fourth down at the Campbell thirty-yard line to keep the momentum going, but a pass missed its mark and was picked off by Campbell’s Monchovia Gaffney. The Camels took over and went to work and a catch and run by Chaney Fitzgerald got the Camels into the red zone. After an intentional grounding call and sack pushed the Camels back, Hajj-Malik Williams looked to make up for his miscues on the previous two plays and scooted twenty-two yards for Campbell’s first touchdown of the evening. The celebration was short-lived, however, as the Camels found themselves in the same position as earlier drives with a personal foul penalty extending an Elon drive that was capped off with a Jalen Hampton rushing touchdown two plays later. Hampton’s fourth touchdown of the game gave the Phoenix a 28-10 lead heading into the final quarter.

The Camels refused to give up in the final quarter and CJ Tillman’s forced fumble was recovered by Cam Booker, giving the home team a sign of life. When Hajj-Malik Williams hit VJ Wilkins in the endzone, the Camels faithful erupted. The ensuing two-point conversion was good and the Camels, desperate for the comeback, found themselves down ten with eight minutes left. The Campbell defense stepped up on the next drive, forcing an Elon punt. The Camels offense was quick on the draw on the ensuing possession, moving eighty-seven yards in six plays. Brandon Fitez’s spectacular grab gave the ball to the Camels deep in Elon territory and a pass interference call in the end zone set the Camels up at the two-yard line with six-and-a-half minutes left in the game. NaQuari Rogers’s two-yard touchdown on the next play made it a one-score game, but a missed PAT attempt kept it a four-point affair. Although the Campbell defense was able to give the ball back to the offense for one last chance at victory, the clock was not on the Camels’ side as time ran out before the Camels could find the end zone one last time.

Standout Players

Jalen Hampton led all rushers with 169 yards while rushing for four touchdowns. Hajj-Malik Williams was 33 of 44 for 367 yards and a touchdown. VJ Wilkins led all receivers with ten receptions and 114 receiving yards. Defensively, Bo Sanders and Monchovia Gaffney each had an interception for their respective squads while leading their squads with ten tackles apiece.

What They Said

Elon Coach Tony Trisciani on how his team played offensively: “I was real happy with how came we out of the gate and played. We knew we had to assert ourselves upfront. We knew that that's where we needed to win, especially with weather like this, it would be important wanted to run the football.” On defense, “I thought we did a good job getting to the quarterback position to force him to make some decisions and the get ball the perimeter.”

Campbell Coach Mike Minter on his team’s penalties: “You basically have all your penalties are personal fouls. And all of their points come off of those penalties. And so that's the one thing that sticks out to me in that ball game, you know, third and long and we’ll get a personal foul, third and long, we get a personal foul, third down, we get a personal foul. That's just sickening when you look at it. So we gotta learn from that and understand you know who refereeing the game and understand what type of game is gonna be.” On his team’s finish to the game: “We look at, you know you got a chance for the five-minute drill and we had the five-minute drill going on again. They were able to convert a couple of first downs and kind of ran the clock down a little bit and we just didn't have enough time on the clock. But you just can't start the way we started. We spot them twenty-one points and it's 21-3 and then now you decide to play football, you can't do that.”

Up Next

Both teams face tough matchups next week with ranked teams as Elon (2-2, 2-0) hosts #5 William and Mary while Campbell (2-2, 1-1) heads to Durham to face 18th-ranked North Carolina Central for another in-state contest.