Following an 8-3 (6-2 in conference) season, the Elon University football team is playoffs bound.
The No. 15-ranked Phoenix will play host to Furman University at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25, the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs committee announced during the selection show on ESPNU this morning.
Elon defeated Furman earlier in the year, 34-31, off of a 36-yard field goal from freshman kicker Owen Johnson with five seconds remaining.
Elon enters the playoffs off an at-large bid coming off two loses against ranked teams. The Phoenix was outlasted by the No. 13 University of New Hampshire 16-6 on Nov. 11 and was crushed by the defending national champion and first-ranked James Madison University Dukes yesterday, 31-3.
This year has been a total surprise for Elon fans. After going 2-9 last season, the Phoenix brought in a new head coach, Curt Cignetti, to turn the team around. And he has done just that.
After coaching at Indiana Univeristy of Pennsylvania, posting a record of 53-17 over the past six seasons, and serving as an assistant coach at the University of Alabama under Nick Saban during the 2009 championship season, Cignetti came to Elon with a winning mentality.
Key players have also proved to be crucial for the Phoenix offense. In the pocket, Elon brought in a true-freshman quarterback, who shows the poise of a much older player during pressure situations. Davis Cheek has averaged 202.7 yards per game for the Phoenix, posting 14 touchdowns and only seven interceptions through the end of the regular season.
Behind him for the first half of the season was junior running back Malcolm Summers. Summers was a force, busting through blockers and tackles en route to games of 294 yards against the University of Richmond and 178 against the Charleston Southern University. After suffering a hamstring injury during Elon’s game against the College of William & Mary, fans wondered if Elon would be able to continue its winning ways.
Then, the Elon defense stepped up. Coming up clutch with a late-game interception by junior linebacker Warren Messer against Rhode Island and special teams blocking a field goal in double overtime against Towson University, the Elon defensive has relieved pressure off the young quarterback and the inexperienced running backs that have had to step up when called upon.
Now that his team has made the playoffs, Cignetti and his team just need to do one thing.
“Our goal is to win one more game,” Cignetti said after the loss to JMU. “After we do that, we’ll set another goal.”
This trip to the postseason will be Elon's first since the 2009 FCS playoffs. Follow @SportsENN on Twitter for live coverage of the game against Furman on Saturday.