After scoring on its opening drive and only four minutes into the game, No. 18 Elon football looked like nothing was going to stop them from cruising past the William & Mary Tribe.
Strong Phoenix defensive plays rattled quarterback Tommy McKee, causing him to throw for only nine yards and completing three of his seven passes. McKee was sacked three times before he was pulled and replaced by Sophomore Brandon Battle.
"I can't say enough about our defense," Head Coach Curt Cignetti said. "When the chips are down the way they come through and make plays just time and time and time again."
Elon took a 23-3 lead into the locker room at half. But when the second half began, Elon faced a different Tribe team.
"I mean that's football," Cignetti said. "There's ebbs and flows in a game."
Battle led the Tribe offense to the end zone two times and went 8-14 in the third quarter.
Elon’s offense struggled to convert in the second half as the Tribe defense held the Phoenix to just two yards in the third quarter.
As the quarter drew to a close, the Tribe were only a touchdown away from the lead. Elon looked like it was going to blow its 20-point lead that it took into halftime.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Elon squashed any doubts after special teams was able to pin the William & Mary offense inside the five-yard line. Junior middle linebacker Warren Messer tackled Battle in the end zone, forcing a safety to tack on an additional two points for the Phoenix.
"Honestly it’s just doing my job," Messer said. "Just flying around the ball and having fun. That's what coach preaches, and playing fast, physical and relentless."
"I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss anytime," Cignetti said.
The win moves Elon’s record to 5-1 going into next week’s bye week.