The Elon University football team’s season hit a new low Saturday afternoon, as last-place University of Rhode Island blew out the Phoenix 44-14 in a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) matchup.
It’s the sixth-straight loss for Elon, dropping the Phoenix to a tie for last place and making 2016 Elon’s fourth-straight season with just a single home victory.
“Obviously, a really frustrating day in every regard,” said head coach Rich Skrosky. “We were out-coached — I told the guys, I’ve got to find a way to get us motivated and do the right things. There’s no one here more frustrated than me. But we have to learn from it and move on.”
The win ends a 23-game road losing streak for Rhode Island, as well as a 10-game conference losing streak. It’s a game that Elon expected to win, according to sophomore wide receiver Corey Joyner.“[We’re] disappointed and frustrated,” Joyner said. “All the players know that’s not us playing to our full potential, and we had a pretty good week of preparation. Going into that game, we were thinking we were going to come out with a 'W.' For the game to end like it did, it’s disappointing.”
It’s also the most points in a game for Rhode Island since Sept. 29, 2007, when the Rams beat Brown University 49-42 in double overtime — a stark contrast to Rhode Island’s game two weeks ago, when the Rams lost at James Madison University 84-7.
“In any kind of sports or life situation, you will get knocked down on the mat and it is important what you do with the next opportunity,” said Rams head coach Jim Flemming. “Our team, for two weeks, went through a lot of soul searching, both coaches and players alike. We came out today and performed. What we did today is a very good example of character and how to teach young kids life lessons of playing through tough times and get up off the mat.”
The Phoenix scored on the first play of the game when junior defensive end Dondre Howell intercepted Rams redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Vazzano’s pass and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.
“We had a zone pressure call, and we saw on film that they like to run the quick slant backside,” Howell said. “I just knew he was going to throw it, put my hands up, and got the ball.”
The play gave Elon its first lead since the Oct. 7 game against the University of New Hampshire. Elon held that lead through the first quarter, as Rhode Island’s sophomore kicker Justin Rohrwasser made a 36-yard field goal midway through the quarter.
The Rams took the lead late in the second quarter when Vazzano found redshirt sophomore wide receiver Marven Beauvais in the right corner for a 13-yard touchdown pass.
Two plays later, Elon sophomore quarterback Daniel Thompson threw an interception to Rams sophomore safety D.J. Stewart, who returned it into Elon territory. Rhode Island drove down into the redzone, and Rohrwasser added a 23-yard field goal as the half ended.
The Rams scored 10 points in the third, as Rohrwasser made a 42-yard field goal and Vazzano hit freshman wide receiver Aaron Parker for a 7-yard touchdown pass. Rhode Island added two touchdowns in the fourth on a 70-yard touchdown run from Harold Cooper and a 1-yard run from Markey Clarke, putting the Rams up 37-7.
Elon scored on its next drive when Thompson found freshman wide receiver Jeremiah Bridges for a 30-yard score, the Phoenix’s first passing touchdown since the Sept. 24 game at the College of William & Mary. But Cooper returned the next kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, a moment that Skrosky found all too fitting of the game.
“The kickoff return epitomized what the day represented,” Skrosky said. “That’s bigger than a play or a kick, that’s a mindset standpoint. We lost the focus, the process. That play probably epitomized it more than anything.”
Elon falls to 2-8 on the season and 1-6 in the CAA. The Phoenix’s final game of the season is at 1:30 p.m. next Saturday at James Madison, who clinched the conference championship earlier today.