It was a chilly afternoon for the Elon University faithful who braved freezing temperatures in order to see their football seniors one last time.
It was not meant to be, with the Phoenix losing to the University of Maine 24-17 after a late comeback by Elon fell short on Saturday, Nov. 15 at Rhodes Stadium.
“We really couldn’t find a rhythm offensively,” Elon head coach Rick Skrosky said. “It was obvious that we couldn’t do much on offense consistently and at the end of the day, that was probably the difference in the game.”
The bright spot for the Phoenix came with the performance turned in by the defense. Elon’s defense gave the team its first first-half touchdown since September 20 off an interception return by sophomore cornerback Adrian McClendon.
“I knew that they like to run the quick route on third and short,” McClendon said. “When I saw him hitch up for the ball, I just jumped it and I ran it back for a touchdown.”
Senior linebacker Jonathan Spain moved into fourth all-time on the Elon tackles list and had a strong final showing at Rhodes Stadium with a team-leading 12 tackles, two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss.
“We’ve shared a lot of disappointment and some success together,” Spain said of the senior class. “It’s a great thing to be able to get to senior year and still be playing football at 23 years old. It’s been a great ride.”
Elon senior quarterback Mike Quinn had a forgettable final home game, posting a completion percentage of only 35 percent through the air along with two interceptions. His lone touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to junior wide receiver Kierre Brown proved to be his highest point. The offense had to wait more than nine minutes until it saw the field after McLendon’s interception return and a Maine drive that lasted more than seven minutes and was capped by a Nigel Beckford 2-yard touchdown run.
“We were aching to get on the field,” Quinn said. “We were ready to play, but some of the guys mentioned that their muscles were getting tight as a result of the weather. It may have played a factor.”
The play of the special teams throughout the game kept Elon within the thick of things early on with a blocked punt and a few good kickoff returns. A late interception by junior safety Julius Moore gave the Phoenix offense a chance to capitalize, with Quinn finding Brown for a 17-yard touchdown.
“They really deliver on the field and on the sidelines,” Quinn said of the defense and special teams. “Both special teams and the defense really helped us out today, they’ve been helping us out all season.”
Maine took the lead on a 4-yard pass from Drew Belcher to Damarr Aultman in the second quarter. Those two hooked up again in the fourth quarter for a 29-yard score. The Black Bears also got a 42-yard field goal from Sean Decloux.
Elon also scored on a 23-yard John Gallagher field goal late in the first half.
Elon (1-10, 0-7 CAA) will have one more chance to earn its first Colonial Athletic Association win when it takes on James Madison University (8-3, 5-2 CAA) next week in Harrisonburg, Va.