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Connections abound for Elon, Aggies as new era begins


By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Elon and North Carolina A&T have met in football 12 times, but Saturday night will be different when the teams clash at Rhodes Stadium.

These teams are now competitors in the same league in the Coastal Athletic Association.
“I think it’s a great game for us,” Elon coach Tony Trisciani said. “It’s going to become a rivalry. We’re excited to have them at home.”

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N.C. A&T joined the CAA for the 2022-23 school year, but its football team remained in the Big South Conference for a final season, making this the launch of a new era for the Aggies football team.

“I think our kids are excited for the challenge to go in and play a conference game,” Aggies coach Vincent Brown said. “I feel good about going into conference play that we’ll continue to make the strides we need to make.”

Both teams hold 0-2 records entering the CAA opener. Elon rallied from 14 points down in the last seven minutes to tie last week’s game at Gardner-Webb with 1:25 remaining only to lose 34-27 on a touchdown pass with 14 seconds left in Boiling Springs.

The Aggies were tripped at home by rival North Carolina Central, which won 30-16.

This is Elon’s first home game. The Phoenix holds a Rhodes Stadium-record six-game winning streak.

Brown is familiar with Elon from his time the past four seasons as associate head coach and defensive coordinator at CAA member William & Mary.

“We all recognize the challenges of being in what I believe is the toughest conference in FCS football,” Brown said.

There are other connections. After the past four seasons as Elon’s receivers coach, Chris Young is N.C. A&T’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Aggies offensive line coach Ron Mattes was an Elon assistant from 2011-13.

“There’s a lot of familiarity with each other,” Trisciani said.

N.C. A&T leads the series 8-4, with the first meeting in 1999. The Aggies won the most-recent matchup by 24-21 to begin the 2019 season in Greensboro on a 52-yard field goal on the game’s final play, ruining Trisciani’s head-coaching debut.

N.C. A&T has won four in a row in the series since Elon’s 45-0 romp in 2006 in Greensboro. Trisciani was an Elon assistant at the time.

Elon quarterback Matthew Downing, who was the starter in the opener at Wake Forest, returns to that role after Justin Allen started the Gardner-Webb game.

Last week, Downing threw for three touchdowns and an interception after Allen was 1-for-6 in the air and sacked twice. Two of Downing’s TD passes went to Jamarien Dalton, who made the most of his two catches.

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