Despite an early 6-0 lead, the Elon University football team dropped its fifth straight game Sat., Nov. 9, at Rhodes Stadium, a 38-20 defeat at the hands of the Georgia Southern University Eagles.
“(The) defense came out and gave us some stops,” said Elon head coach Jason Swepson. “Then same old story. We gave up big plays. That’s been the story all year.”
Elon got the ball to start the game and drove 48 yards on nine plays, but the drive stalled on the Eagles’ 27-yard line. Freshman kicker John Gallagher was able to partially salvage the drive when he converted on a 44-yard field goal to give Elon the early 3-0 lead.
Following a punt, Elon had the ball at its own 20-yard line when junior running back Karl Bostick burst through a hole and ran 55 yards up the middle. The run tied the Phoenix’s longest carry of the year and had Elon in position to break the game open. Just five plays later, however, Elon saw another drive fizzle out and Gallagher was called upon once more. This time, he converted from 24 yards out and Elon had a 6-0 lead.
“Same old story. We’re moving the ball up and down the field and just not coming away with touchdowns,” Swepson said.
“It’s a big letdown,” said junior quarterback Mike Quinn. “I’m always upset when the field goal team comes out. We’ve got to do a better job in the red zone. Everything happens fast in the red zone, we’ve got to make plays. We’re coming up short too many times.”
Georgia Southern utilized its triple-option offense to quickly get back into the game. The two teams traded punts, but the Eagles needed only two plays to gain 57 yards and score on their third offensive series of the day. Redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Ellison, starting in place of the injured senior Jerick McKinnon, ran 53 yards himself on the outside edge to get the Eagles on the board with 2:09 remaining in the first quarter.
“It’s assignment football when it comes to the triple option,” said Elon senior safety Chandler Wrightenberry. “You’ve just got to be disciplined, you’ve got to be focused throughout.”
Elon’s next series resulted in another field goal try, but this time, Gallagher missed from 45 yards out after his team had driven 54 yards to set him up.
“It’s rough not coming away with seven,” said junior wide receiver Kierre Brown. “Three is always OK but seven is better. As the game goes along, we try to score every time and forget about the past drives.”
The Eagles responded by adding 10 more points before the intermission, a two-yard touchdown run from redshirt freshman running back Irving Huggins and a 49-yard field goal from freshman kicker Younghoe Koo.
For the second week in a row, Elon’s opponent opened the second half with the ball and was able to score on their first possession. Georgia Southern marched 75 yards in eight plays and capped off the drive with Huggins’ second two-yard touchdown run on the day.
Ellison would score his second touchdown of the day with 2:59 remaining in the third quarter, a 14-yard run.
Two minutes and 19 seconds later, Elon snapped a six-game skid of not scoring a touchdown in the second half. Exploiting a hole in Georgia Southern’s man defense, Quinn found Brown for a 23-yard touchdown. Before the touchdown, Elon had scored just nine points in the second half in the last six games.
“Georgia Southern played a lot of man coverage so we tried to take advantage of that with the passing game,” Brown said. “We tried to pass a bit more.”
For Swepson, scoring in the second half was a relief.
“It’s not like we haven’t been trying,” he said. “We only had two possessions in the third quarter. It just seems we’re getting fewer possessions in the second half for some reason. We can’t get off the field on defense. We can’t sustain a drive on offense. It just piles up on you.”
Huggins would add a third two-yard score with 5:00 remaining in the game to push the lead to 38-13. With the game already decided, Elon redshirt freshman quarterback John Loughery tossed his first career touchdown, a 27-yard strike to freshman wide reciever Demitri Allison.
The score was too little, too late, and Elon fell to 2-9, 1-6 in the Southern Conference. Georgia Southern improved to 6-4, 4-4 in conference play.
Quinn finished the day at 22 of 33 for 197 yards for the Phoenix with one touchdown pass and no interceptions. Ellison, in addition to his two rushing touchdowns, was 5 of 11 through the air for 104 yards.
Elon closes the season next Sat., Nov. 23 with a road game at Samford University. Kickoff is set for 3:00 p.m. ET, 2:00 p.m. at the game site in Birmingham, Ala. Because Samford defeated the University of Chattanooga Saturday, the Bulldogs are in a position to win a share of the Southern Conference title. Should Samford and Furman University win, three teams will be tied atop the SoCon standings at 6-2.