On its final play of the night, the Elon University football team went for the win. But sophomore quarterback Daniel Thompson’s pass intended for freshman wide receiver Cole Taylor was broken up and the Phoenix lost to the University of New Hampshire 13-10 Friday night at Rhodes Stadium.
“It was a good college football game — it was two good teams that put it all on the line,” said head coach Rich Skrosky. “In most games like this, it usually comes down to one team making one more play than the other team. We were able to put away that bad taste from last week, but it’s a tough loss.”
In the game moved from Saturday afternoon because of safety concerns about Hurricane Matthew, the Phoenix faced fourth and 10 from New Hampshire’s 38-yard line with 42 seconds left. Thompson threw it to the endzone for Taylor, who was running down the right sideline in single coverage. But Wildcats freshman cornerback Prince Smith Jr. knocked the ball away, forcing a turnover on downs.
“It was really pick-your-matchup, and I thought Cole gave us a good chance,” Thompson said. “If I put a little more on it, we probably would’ve scored, honestly. The DB made a really good play on the ball, you’ve got to give him credit.”
Skrosky added, ”The one-on-one was there, and Cole had been having a pretty good night, so it was where it should’ve been and it was the right read. I’ll look at the tape, but I think [Smith] made a good play on the ball.”
New Hampshire took the lead in the fourth on two field goals from sophomore kicker Morgan Ellman. Elon had a chance to take a 13-10 lead in between the two Wildcat field goals in its only trip to the redzone in the game, but senior kicker John Gallagher hooked a 27-yard field goal to the left.
“In a game like this, those are the plays that don’t get made that are magnified,” Skrosky said. “There’s probably a lot of plays during the game that aren’t made.”
Thompson stepped in after Skrosky talked, taking responsibility for the missed chance in the redzone by saying, “[Gallagher] shouldn’t have been in that position, to be honest. I’m going to stick up for him because, the play before was a bad read on my part, and it led to that. It’s not John’s fault — he missed a play, I missed a play. It happens.”
Elon took the lead in the third when sophomore defensive end Daniel Everett picked up a fumble at his feet and bolted past the New Hampshire defenders for a 21-yard touchdown return.
“One of my teammates poked the ball out, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Everett said. “We’re just trying to make plays when they come our way.”
On the rainy night, the kicking game was an adventure for each team, as Gallagher went 1-for-2 and Ellman went 2-for-5. New Hampshire also faked a field goal in the second quarter from the 3-yard line, but freshman defensive back Khalil Moore stopped New Hampshire sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight a yard short of the endzone.
“Our coaches put us in a great position to make a play,” Moore said. “We’ve been practicing it since camp, so it really was an easy play to make. I credit the coaches and the other 10 guys on the field — they put me in a position to make a play.”
It was a solid response to last week’s 42-7 loss to Villanova University, especially to a team that has been to 11 straight Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs. Still, Thompson sees the game in only one light.
“It’s a loss,” Thompson said. “Every loss is bad. You can’t ever have a good loss."
The paid attendance was 4,416, the smallest crowd for an Elon home game since Nov. 18, 2006 when 3,716 came to see the Phoenix lose to The Citadel 44-7. While there is no official number, the actual attendance was significantly fewer than the paid attendance.
The Phoenix drops to 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association. Elon has a bye next week before hosting the University of Richmond for Homecoming at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 22.