Elon University’s football team is set for one of its toughest tests of the season this Saturday — a road clash against the James Madison University Dukes.
James Madison is currently ranked fifth in the Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll, which ranks the best teams in the FCS every week. The Dukes hold a 6-1 record this season and lead the Colonial Athletic Association in points per game (35.9) and points allowed per game (14.7).
However, Elon enters the matchup on a three game winning streak, all of which were against CAA opponents. Head Coach Tony Trisciani said this game is an opportunity for the Phoenix to add a significant win to the team’s resume.
“It’s a big football game and It’d be a big win for us,” Trisciani said. “It’s a conference opponent and we have a rivalry with them.”
Three of Elon’s four wins this season have come in road games. Junior linebacker Devonte Chandler said the team is not worried about the environment it will face at James Madison.
“We love the adversity and we love the animosity the crowds bring,” Chandler said. “We feed off that.”
Elon won its last trip to Harrisonburg in 2018, defeating the Dukes for the first time in program history. Trisciani said that if the Phoenix can replicate the attitude and execution exhibited in that game, the team can also replicate the result.
“When we went up there and won, what I remember was just the attitude of the program,” Trisciani said. “We believed we could beat them when we went up there. We executed a great gameplan, played hard for 60 minutes and played complementary football.”
Since losing to Elon in Harrisonburg in 2018, James Madison is 19-1 in its last 20 home games.
Elon held a 17-3 halftime lead against then number one ranked James Madison in the spring season, but ultimately lost 20-17. Chandler said coming so close in that game gives the Phoenix confidence heading into this season’s matchup, especially since the team is much healthier now than it was in their last meeting.
“We know what they can do. We had some guys banged up last year but we have a full healthy squad now,” Chandler said.
James Madison enters the week ranked third in the CAA in rushing with over 182 yards per game. Trisciani said stopping their explosive run game is crucial for Elon’s defense.
“If we can stop the run, we can beat JMU,” Trisciani said. “We have to affect the run game and keep them out in front of us.”
The Phoenix are just 1-7 all time against the Dukes and are 1-4 in Harrisonburg.
Since falling behind 21-0 against William & Mary on Sept. 26, Elon has outscored its opponents 108-53.
Redshirt senior quarterback Davis Cheek earned FCS National Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against the University of New Hampshire. Cheek’s 2,431 passing yards this season are the most in the CAA by almost 800.
Chandler said the team has made significant improvements since in recent weeks and believes that
“Right now, we are trending in the right direction,” Chandler said. “We have the blueprint of what it takes to win and it’s important to not do too much.”
The game at Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, Virginia will begin at 2 p.m.