Updated as of 2:22 p.m. Sept. 1 to include more photos from the game.

Elon football officially started its season Aug. 31 at Wake Forest, falling 37-17.

After a slow start with zero first downs for Elon senior Matthew Downing starting as quarterback, coaching staff made a quick change to red-shirt senior Justin Allen who brought a spark to the offense. Allen was able to turn things around a little for Elon leading the rest of the game. Head coach Tony Trisciani said he wanted to keep Downings confident despite the poor play.

“I'll say exactly what I told him. I said, ‘you're out right now, but you're not done. Keep your head in the game, mentally, every rep.’” Trisciani said. 

Part of the difficulties of the quarterback play in the first half could be in part due to offensive line struggles allowing three sacks and nine tackles for loss. Trisciani said the offensive line was able to get a little bit more comfortable in the second half to help protect the quarterback.

“It's hard on the offensive line in an opening season game, because you don't know exactly what you're going to see, you don't know what the front's gonna look like,” Trisciani said. “We did a good job of settling in and finding the running run frames that we could increase, and that we got better as the game went on.”

Allen threw two interceptions during the game which he said those interceptions are something he is going to look back on despite the bright sides of his performance. 

“I'm gonna be seeing those in my head for a while, just a couple little things here and there we can fix up, but most teams don't,” Allen said. “Luckily we have a long weekend here to prepare for next week.” 

The team ended the first half down 24-0, but Allen said thanks to locker room pep talks, the team came back stronger in the second half. 

“It was definitely electric in the stadium with the crowd, but coach Trisciani prepared us all week for it,” Allen said. “Together. Not just within the players, but with the coaches too there was ups and downs, but we all stuck together.”

Trisciani said he challenged his team in the locker room to come out even stronger in the second half, a trend the team is used to from last season as being known as a second-half team at times.

“Addressing the mistakes that we made and the things we need to fix, and then focus on the next step and challenge them to win the second half,” Trisciani said. “I think we got better as the game went on. And that'll pay some dividends for us.”

Elon’s secondary gave up three long passing plays that seem to play a large part in what put the team down in the first half as well. Trisciani said that they are still getting comfortable and settling in with some learning curves but saw things to build off of.

“There's some physical advantages that Wake Forest has out there on the perimeter, they have a strong receiver group, you know, it's one of the strengths of their team. So I felt like our guys held up at the moment of truth a couple of times to down the field. So when you have a talented receiver group, you know you're gonna win some and lose some of those deep balls,” Trisciani said.

The Phoenix were able to outscore Wake Forest in the second half 17-13. One of the big scores in the second half was a pick-six by redshirt sophomore Caleb Curtain taking the ball 49-yards for the touchdown. Curtain said he saw plenty of things to work on but also saw things that they can carry over.

“Come out here and want to prove a point,” Curtain said. “Just getting used to it, we call it the moment of truth, just making a play while you’re there. I thought we were in the right spot. We've just got to make the play.”

Elon now prepares for Gardner-Webb as they head to Boiling Springs, North Carolina Sept. 9. Allen said the team will use this week to begin fixing mistakes from the past game.

“It was a tough game, and we really felt we could win this game. Not getting the outcome we wanted, which is definitely gonna drive us the rest of the season,” Trisciani said. “We're definitely going to have a good week of practice.”