In a complete reversal from the previous week’s upset, the Elon University football team got steamrolled by Villanova University on Saturday afternoon, falling behind by 35 at half and losing the game 42-7 at Rhodes Stadium.
In front of 10,424 fans — Elon’s seventh-largest crowd for Family Weekend — the Wildcats scored on all five of its first half drives, thoroughly silencing a relatively raucous Elon fanbase.
“Well, obviously, it was a disappointing effort in every phase of the game,” said head coach Rich Skrosky. “I told the guys that it starts with me. The ability to have a consistent, good week of practice is something that we’re building on.
“[Villanova] had a dominant performance. I give all the credit to Coach Talley — they had focus and they looked like they had a mission. They played better and they played with much more energy than we did today.”
Elon’s offense set Skrosky-era lows in total offensive yards (130) and plays (43), passing yards (33) and completions (eight) and time of possession (19 minutes and six seconds), as well as tying the Skrosky-era low in first downs (six).
Sophomore quarterback Daniel Thompson called the performance, “humiliating.”
“We just got whipped,” Thompson said. “They went out there from play one and drive one. They score, then a three-and-out. They score, three-and-out. We just let it get to us. Once we got down, they didn’t let up and we did a little bit. It’s frustrating [and] terrible.”
The Wildcats put the hurt on the Phoenix in the first half, gaining 377 yards of offense and possessing the ball for 20:33 of the 30-minute half.
The Wildcats moved methodically down the field on the first four. Three of the four drives went for more than five minutes, with the other of that group taking 3:55. Villanova used a balanced attack, gaining exactly 151 yards in the air and on the ground and getting two touchdowns in each style.
Then, on its fifth drive, Villanova’s play-action read option got the entire Elon defense to bite, leading to a 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass from quarterback Zach Bednarczyk to sophomore wide receiver Alex Padovani. Skrosky said the Elon player who was supposed to cover deep didn’t. Junior safety Asunji Maddox was on the other side of the field during that play and said he could see where the breakdown came from.
“We didn’t have momentum at any point of the game,” Maddox said. “When it’s 28-0, for me, I catch myself, at times, trying to make a play that’s giving us some momentum. That’s not specifically regarding that play, but you get antsy at times.
You want to make a play to get some momentum for the team, and the game’s not out of reach. But it was a breakdown in coverage.”
The Wildcats tacked on another touchdown in the third, but Elon finally responded with a big drive at the end of the quarter. The Phoenix scored early in the fourth, when freshman running back De’Sean McNair capped off the 11-play, 72-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run, the first of his career.
But Elon’s offense sputtered on every other drive, only gaining 58 yards over 32 plays in the eight drives. Skrosky said that execution was the problem, and Thompson blamed it on the passing attack.
“We couldn’t throw the football,” Thompson said. “When you’re one-dimensional against one of the best run defenses in our league, it’s never a good thing. That’s all on me — there were plays to be made, and we didn’t execute. Something wasn’t right.”
After this game, the Phoenix dropped to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Elon hosts the University of New Hampshire next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.