Elon University football’s hopes of a conference championship came to an end at Rhodes Stadium Saturday when the No. 5 Phoenix (6-3, 4-2) fell to No. 20 Towson University (7-3, 5-2) 41-10. This was Elon’s worst loss of the year and the most points they have given up all year.
“We were out-played,” said head coach Curt Cignetti.
The offense struggled mightily for Elon as it was only able to put up 238 yards, and only 30 through the air. Towson kept the Elon offense off the field, with the Tigers running 24 more plays than the Phoenix.
Cignetti thought Elon’s offense today was “inconsistent."
“We just couldn’t sustain drives, finish drives," Cignetti said. "We’re not balanced enough, we need more production from the passing game.”
Towson got on the board first on a four-yard pass from junior quarterback Tom Flacco to sophomore tight end Chris Clark to put the Tigers up seven. The touchdown capped off a nine-play, 62-yard drive that broke the scoreless deadlock.
Elon got on the board with a field goal just after the start of the second quarter. The Phoenix was able to drive the down field to the four-yard line before seeing its drive stall just before the end of the first quarter, forcing a chip-shot field goal.
Elon’s junior defensive back Greg Liggs Jr. nearly flipped the field with a fourth-down interception. But upon review, it was determined he had stepped out of bounds just after making the pick, negating 77 yards of the return. Elon paid for the misstep, too. Instead of being able to settle for at least a field goal, a failed fourth down conversion just on the Towson side of the field turned the ball back over to the Tigers. Towson then sliced through the Elon defense and took a 14-3 lead into the half, ending the lowest-scoring half against an FCS opponent this season for the Phoenix.
Elon’s misfortunes on interceptions carried over to the second half. As Towson cruised down the field looking poised to run away with the game, Liggs came down with a second interception on the day. But a roughing the passer call against senior linebacker Warren Messer negated the interception and then moved Towson to the nine-yard line. The very next play, Flacco was able to spin and dip his way away from Elon defenders and connect with sophomore wide receiver Shane Leatherbury for the tandem’s second score of the game to make it 21-3.
“He’s a great athlete at quarterback,” Messer said of Flacco. “He’s very slippery and we just missed a lot of opportunities, and we also had opportunities we finished on, but he’s just a great player.”
Elon responded loudly at the end of the third quarter. After Towson had decent field position to start yet another drive, Elon’s defense stood its ground and forced a 47-yard field goal attempt which petered out and fell harmlessly into the end zone. The Phoenix then took advantage of its decent field position and used long rushes by sophomore quarterback Jalen Greene to get back into the end zone and show that they still had a heartbeat and a prayer heading into the last 15 minutes of the game, down 24-10, following a Towson field goal as the Tigers hit a 45-yard try with time expiring in the quarter.
Elon was able to make another defensive stop to begin the fourth quarter but were pinned deep in their own territory when Towson downed a punt inside the Phoenix five-yard line. Elon got some space with big runs, but a costly fumble by Greene gave Towson great field position. They were able to tack on three more points via a 45-yard field goal to make it 27-10 and put the game out of reach for the Phoenix. Add two more touchdowns for good measure, including a one-play drive after recovering a missed kickoff, and the day became one to forget for the Phoenix.
“I was very displeased with the way we finished the game those last two and a half minutes. Since I have been here as the head coach, it’s the first time that I’ve been disappointed in this team,” Cignetti said. “It wasn’t good, and I made that message very clear to the team in the locker room after the game. I don’t like losing, but we will always play with great effort.”
A nice moment rounded out the dismal day for Elon as senior quarterback Daniel Thompson got under center one last time for the Phoenix in front of the home fans to round out his time at Elon.
Elon now has to play a very tough University of Maine team to end the season and hopefully make the playoffs. Elon has gone from being ranked in the top-five in the nation coming in to this game to now seemingly needing a win a week from today to sneak into the playoffs.