Sophomore quarterback Daniel Thompson didn’t want to look at the stats after the Elon University football team’s game Saturday afternoon against Villanova University.
And frankly, I can’t blame him. Not after the Phoenix was blown out by the Wildcats 42-7, a 35-point loss that felt like much more.
“It’s really humiliating,” Thompson said. “They’re a really good team, and all respect to them. But I’m at a loss for words.
“We just got whipped.”
I couldn’t say it any better.
It’s only been a week since Elon went to the eighth-ranked College of William & Mary and beat the Tribe 27-10, using big moments from three aspects of football — offense, defense and special teams — to pull off one of Elon’s biggest upsets in its history.
Thompson, along with many others in and around the football program, hoped the victory on Sept. 24 would catapult the Phoenix to further success.
“Honestly, coming off last week, I thought that would be the turning point, and I thought we’d play [better],” Thompson said. “But as [head coach Rich Skrosky] says, ‘You’re not getting anything handed to you in this league.’ It’s the team that, every week, plays as hard as they can. Villanova came out and played harder and wanted it more, and it showed.”
In its third year in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), Elon and Thompson have learned that the only thing you can get handed to you is a butt-whooping if you don’t show up to play. Skrosky called the performance, “disappointing,” and noted that the lack of consistency is on him as well as the team.
“The ability to have a consistent, good week of practice is something that we’re building on,” Skrosky said. “When you’re dealing with a group of 18- to 23-year-old guys, you’re dealing with a different team every weekend. I think one of the keys to coaching is getting the guys to come out with the same energy level, the same focus and the same attention to detail each and every week. We weren’t able to do that, and I wasn’t able to do that.”
Skrosky’s background as a coach is in offense, having spent three years as Elon’s offensive coordinator from 2008-2010 before heading to Ball State University to coach in the same position with former Elon head coach Pete Lembo. Saturday’s performance was statistically the worst Elon has had since Skrosky became head coach in 2014.
Elon set Skrosky-era lows in total yards (130), total plays (43), time of possession (19:06), passing completions (eight) and passing yards (33). They also tied for the fewest first downs under Skrosky’s leadership with only six.
The stats look a lot better thanks to Elon’s lone scoring drive — an 11-play, 82-yard drive that ended early in the fourth quarter with a one-yard touchdown run from freshman running back De’Sean McNair. Without that drive, Elon gained just 58 yards on 32 plays over its eight drives, with five three-and-outs.
In the first half, Villanova was just a touchdown shy of having as many points (35) as Elon had yards (42).
It’d be easy to blame the defense for the effort, but it’s tough to play well against a team when they have the ball for more than 40 minutes in a 60-minute game. Elon was also suffering injury attrition at linebacker, with only four linebackers healthy enough to play. Elon used freshman defensive back Daniel Reid-Bennett at linebacker for four snaps against William & Mary and many more against Villanova.
Junior defensive back Asunji Maddox talked about how, in a near-perfect mirror of the previous week’s 17-0 start, Elon fell behind early and couldn’t build anything in its favor.
“We didn’t have momentum at any point of the game,” Maddox said. “When it’s 28-0, I catch myself, at times, trying to make a play that’s giving us some momentum. 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 this Saturday — in front of 10,424 fans here for Family Weekend — the game fell far out of reach and looked like a worse version to Elon’s opening game of the season, a 31-6 loss to Gardner-Webb University.
And now, after five games, Elon’s win in Williamsburg, Virginia seems less like a coronation of an up-and-coming Phoenix team. Instead, it feels like a showing of just how overrated William & Mary was.