No. 23 beats higher-ranked No. 17 Richmond, 30-27
By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
ELON – Once Elon’s offense got it turned back on, the Phoenix found the paths to victory against No. 17 Richmond on Saturday afternoon.
Sure, it took two overtime periods and plenty of anxiety, but No. 23 Elon ended up with a 30-27 victory in double overtime at Rhodes Stadium. Jalen Hampton busted untouched for an 11-yard game-winning touchdown.
The Phoenix (4-1, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association) scored on its last three possessions, including a touchdown in each overtime session.
The matchup between two nationally ranked Football Championship Subdivision teams lived up to the billing.
The Spiders (3-2, 1-1) racked up 528 yards of total offense, but Elon’s defense stiffened at the right times.
Quarterback Matthew McKay threw for 322 yards on 20-for-35 passing with three touchdowns to help Elon beat a nationally ranked team for the second week in a row. Bryson Daughtry caught four passes for 134 yards.
Elon scored on the first play of overtime when McKay found Johncarlos Miller II alone on the left side and the redshirt freshman tight end was uncontested on his way to the end zone for his first career touchdown. Richmond matched it by scoring on third down on Reece Udinski’s 19-yard pass to Jacob Herres.
Jake Larson drilled a 47-yarder in the second overtime to put the Spiders on top. After a first-down pick-up, Hampton ended it by going through a huge hole on the right side.
“What a way to win it,” Trisciani said, suggesting it might have been the biggest hole of the day created by the offensive line.
Udinski was 42-for-58 for 383 yards, with Elon preventing any of the Spiders’ pass plays from gaining more than 31 yards.
Elon’s final four possessions of the first half ended with punts. The team’s second-half possessions began with Skyler Davis missing a 50-yard field goal.
The Phoenix then punted on its next three possessions and didn’t get the ball back until stopping Richmond on fourth-and-goal from the 5 with 1:50 to play.
“It’s a lot of stress,” safety Marcus Hillman said. “We like to say in our defensive huddle, we want to stand tall at the moment of truth. No moment is too big for us.”
That was the opening Elon needed for a 71-yard drive to tie the game.
“There wasn’t a player on the offensive side of the ball that was thinking about what we did prior to that possession,” Trisciani said. “They were locked in.”
It began with McKay’s 29-yard pass from his own end zone, with Christian Da-Silva hanging on while absorbing a big hit. McKay scrambled for 9 yards and then Hampton’s 20-yard run included leaping a defender on a crowd-pleasing maneuver.
Davis tied it with a 42-yard boot with 37 seconds left. By then on a day with rain from what was left over from Hurricane Ian, it could have been tricky footing.
“It was good enough track,” Trisciani said of the turf. “Plenty of offense on it.”
With a chance to win on the final play of regulation, Larson was wide left on a 42-yard attempt.
Hampton was hemmed in most of the game. Other than his 48-yard burst that set up Elon’s second touchdown, his 20-yarder on the final drive of regulation and the game-winning play, he was limited to 14 yards on his other 12 carries.
There was a reason the Phoenix kept giving him the ball.
“You can’t become one-dimensional,” Trisciani said. “There was no reason not to run the ball in that game. You’ve got to stick to the run. Man, we ran it really well when it counted there at the end.”
Richmond threatened to take the lead in the final two minutes of the first half. Instead, Miller blocked Larson’s 48-yard field goal attempt.
The Spiders finally went ahead for the first time on Larson’s 41-yarder with 8:05 to play in the third quarter.
Earlier, big plays became Elon’s friend.
The Phoenix struck first on its first snap. Daughtry got behind the defense and caught McKay’s heave for what became a 74-yard scoring play.
The Spiders responded with Udinski’s 8-yard pass to Leroy Henley.
The Phoenix had the game’s third touchdown in the first 10 ½ minutes when McKay connected with Jackson Parham in the end zone.