Before Towson lined up for a 33-yard field goal in double overtime, Elon fans chanted, “Block that kick.”
A score for the Tigers would have given them the advantage in the extra period, placing enormous pressure on the Phoenix to score again or lose the game.
But defensive end Dre Howell heard the chants. And then he delivered.
Howell threw his hands up as soon as the ball left Tigers' kicker Aiden O’Neil’s foot. It grazed his left elbow, hitting his padded white sleeve that was stained by the grass. The ball puttered to the ground, keeping the Phoenix's winning hopes alive. Nine plays later, kicker Owen Johnson booted a 26-yard field goal to win the game 33-30.
It came after Elon squandered a 17-point lead. Coach Curt Cignetti said they "definitely kept things interesting".
“They found way to win the game,” Cignetti said. “You have to be a good football team to withstand that.”
Missed opportunities to extend its lead plagued No. 7 Elon (8-1) as the Phoenix played in front of 10,113 people, the fifth-largest homecoming crowd in Rhodes Stadium’s history. In the fourth quarter, Towson rallied to force overtime by capitalizing on Elon's mistakes.
Elon cornerback Greg Liggs Jr. slipped while covering Jabari Greenwood, freeing him to catch a 39-yard pass on the third down with just under nine minutes remaining in regulation. Six plays later, the Tigers scored on a trick pass play from receiver Jabari Allen to quarterback Ryan Stover, making the score 17-27.
With about six minutes remaining, Elon fumbled a punt on the fourth down, giving the Tigers possession near midfield. Two plays later, Towson scored when Stover threw a 39-yard touchdown to Shane Leatherbury. After a missed 47-yard field goal from Johnson, the Tigers marched 61 yards ending with a 27-yard field goal from O’Neil-- knotting the score at 27.
Another stalled drive forced Elon to punt, giving the Tigers a chance to win in regulation; but an interception by Chris Blair forced overtime, where each team scored a field goal before Howell’s block.
“It was a game of momentum,” Cignietti said. “It was like two boxers duking it out.”
Elon only surrendered two scores to Towson in the first half — a 25-yard field goal and seven-yard touchdown catch to Tigers' tight end Joe Green.
But Elon responded.
Touchdowns from receiver Tre Marsh and running backs De’Sean McNair and Brelynd Cyphers, and a field goal from Johnson enlarged Elon’s lead to 27-10.
Freshman quarterback Davis Cheek finished with 271 passing yards. McNair and Cyphers had 131 yards and 112 yards on the ground respectively.
This game pushes Elon to the brink of a Colonial Athletic Association championship. The Phoenix is undefeated in their conference and has two games remaining. For a team that has not had a winning record since moving to the conference in 2014, Cheek said it’s an exciting time for them.
But he said they still have some more work to do.
“I don’t think there is anyone in that locker room who doesn’t want to play for a CAA title,” Cheek said. “It’s kind of scary because when we play, we play well. But this Elon team still has a lot to prove.”