In a season filled with many lows for the Elon University football team, junior quarterback Mike Quinn had been a bright spot.
Until Homecoming Saturday at Rhodes Stadium.
The Wayne, N.J. native saw his Southern Conference record consecutive pass attempts without an interception streak come to an end at 210 when he threw his first of three picks in Elon’s 35-10 loss to The Citadel Saturday, Nov. 9.
Elon seized momentum early when The Citadel was stopped on downs with 8:51 remaining in the first quarter at the Elon four-yard line. The Bulldogs had driven down into the tight red zone on eight plays, but senior defensive back Chandler Wrightenberry stopped sophomore Vinny Miller behind the line of scrimmage for the turnover.
Just three plays later, Quinn threw his first interception to freshman linebacker Tevin Floyd.
“I think we’re just all over the place as an offense,” Quinn said.
The Citadel senior quarterback Ben Dupree scored the first of two rushing touchdowns on the game on a two-yard scamper with 4:30 remaining in the opening quarter.
Elon was able to answer when Quinn found sophomore running back Tracey Coppedge on a 13-yard screen pass five seconds before the first quarter came to an end. The score was set up by a fumble recovery at the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line, and Elon made the best of the short field.
The Phoenix took its only lead of the game on a 20-yard field goal from freshman kicker John Gallagher with 9:48 before halftime. Despite taking the lead, Elon had first-and-goal at The Citadel five-yard line and was unable to find the end zone.
“We knew we had three points in our pocket,” Swepson explained about the decision to kick.
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Following a deep punt from freshman punter David Petroni two series later, The Citadel was backed up at their own three-yard line. Poor field position did not seem to hamper the Bulldogs, as they marched down the field in 10 plays for a go-ahead score. While another two-yard Dupree run capped off the drive, his 45-yard pass to junior running back Dalton Trevino was the signature play. Trevino broke through the Elon defense and was wide open over the middle for the catch before falling down on his own.
“They went (97) yards and took the lead and we just didn’t recover from that,” Swepson said.
“At the end of the day, it’s an overall team breakdown,” senior defensive lineman Jay Brown said. “A one-on-one guy just missing the assignment or losing his focus, playing those option teams, that will hurt you.”
Since the Bulldogs opened the second half with the ball, they were able to add to their lead quickly. On only the second play of the half, Dupree found senior fullback Darien Robinson for another coverage-burning 65-yard touchdown. The trend of a quick score in the early second half has hurt the Phoenix all season long.
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“We always feel fired up, we’re always ready to go back out,” Brown said. “We really don’t know why it keeps happening, it’s a curse, but our mood never changes. We’re always ready to go.”
“We came out in the second half and just got ‘big-played’ on defense in the pass game,” Swepson said.
In Elon’s three possessions in the third quarter, the Phoenix had two three-and-out punts before a third series featured two first downs before a punt.
Elon was down 21-10 and about to get the ball back late in the quarter when the Phoenix was called for a roughing the kicker penalty against The Citadel redshirt freshman punter Eric Goins. The new life allowed freshman fullback Tyler Renew to burst through a hole in the middle of the field and score a 61-yard touchdown.
Elon took the ensuing possession down to the Bulldogs’ six-yard line and appeared to be knocking on the door of getting back in the game until Quinn found Floyd for the second time on the afternoon.
“Go down there, throw a pick, not what needs to happen in a football game,” Quinn said. “You’ve got to score points in a football game.”
One more Bulldog touchdown, a 17-yard Dupree run with 10:00 remaining in the game, put the nail in the coffin.
A crowd of 9,256 went home from Rhodes Stadium after taking in a game plagued by mistakes and big plays going against the Phoenix.
“We all had one of those games today, we’re just mentally stuck,” Swepson said.
Quinn finished 16 of 36 for 139 yards with three interceptions and a touchdown. Junior wide receiver Kierre Brown was Elon’s leading receiver with four catches for 42 yards.
Elon drops to 2-8, 1-5 in the Southern Conference. The Citadel improves to 4-6, 4-4 in conference play. Elon will conclude its home schedule with a game against Georgia Southern University next Saturday, Nov. 16, in Rhodes Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:00 p.m.