By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Taking many positives from the way parts of the opening game went, the Elon football team will be intent on reaping the benefits of that experience.
So with Saturday night’s game at Gardner-Webb, there’s a chance to show progress following the 37-17 setback last week at Wake Forest.
“A lot of things to build off,” coach Tony Trisciani said. “(We need) a little more consistency, settle down a little bit.”
The matchup with Gardner-Webb, which like the Phoenix reached the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs last year, involves a pair of teams that have been gaining respect on the FCS level.
“They were ranked in the preseason. Gardner-Webb is going to have success,” Trisciani said. “If you want to be a Top 25 team like we want to be, go ahead and beat one.”
Gardner-Webb led in the second half last Saturday before falling 45-24 at Appalachian State.
“Every game is important for us,” Elon defensive back Caleb Curtain said. “We got to be ready.”
The clash at Spangler Stadium in Boiling Springs is a rematch of Elon’s 30-24 home victory last September, when the Phoenix scored the game’s only 10 second-half points. Receiver Jordan Bonner scored on a go-ahead touchdown reception.
“We had to fight with them,” Bonner said of the 2022 battle.
Justin Allen will be Elon’s starting quarterback after his outing in relief of Matthew Downing was encouraging in the Wake Forest game.
“He was more productive,” Trisciani said. “Justin just came in and played free, and he should. It’s his fourth year in our offense.”
Elon’s rough start in Winston-Salem was based on multiple factors.
“It wasn’t just Matt, really,” Trisciani said. “He could have used some more help in those early drives. We have to make sure we have two (quarterbacks) ready to go.”
Bonner said Allen should be well-suited for an increased role.
“I’ve been around Justin for a long time,” Bonner said. “I’ve seen him blossom since he was a freshman. He’s somebody who just wants to play and be an impact on the team. Just be somebody everyone can count on.”
Gardner-Webb quarterback Matthew Caldwell completed 30 passes in the Appalachian State game, marking the most for an FCS player last week.
Curtain had a key play in the Wake Forest game with a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown. He said the best part of that was celebrating with teammates, with defenders taking pride in putting points on the board.
“It was good for the defense,” Curtain said. “We have to build on that.”