Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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Elon hopes to bounce back against Villanova

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Elon’s football team is back in Coastal Athletic Association play for the rest of its regular season and that might be a good thing.

“Everything we want is in front of us still in CAA play,” Elon coach Tony Trisciani said.

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The Phoenix (3-3 overall, 3-0 CAA) visit Villanova (4-2, 2-1) for its first out-of-state trip of the season.

Elon went winless in three non-conference games against in-state opponents. The last of those came with Saturday’s 34-23 loss to North Carolina Central at Rhodes Stadium.

That snapped Elon’s eight-game home winning streak that stretched to 2021. The Phoenix led 10-0 but came undone before recovering too late in the fourth quarter.

“That was a missed opportunity, but it’s behind us now,” Trisciani said. “We are full speed on Villanova.”

The Phoenix is trying to reach 4-0 in CAA for the first time since 2017.

Among Elon’s glitches last weekend were N.C. Central’s 14 tackles for losses, including eight sacks. Three different Elon quarterbacks hit the turf at least twice behind the line of scrimmage.

“The sacks, it’s not all on the offensive line,” Trisciani said. “It’s on the quarterback, the running back, the receivers, as well as the O-line. That was distributed. But we do need to do a better job with the negative plays.”

Quarterback Davis Richard ran for three touchdowns and threw for another touchdown for N.C. Central (5-1).

“It wasn’t our best football,” Trisciani said. “We’ve got to turn the page. We’ve got to grow from it. We’ve got to stick together.”

That was the consensus among the Phoenix.

“Like Coach said in the locker room: Remember what this feels like,” safety Bo Sanders said. “Learn from it. Bury the tape.”

Quarterbacks Matthew Downing, who left with an injury, and Justin Allen threw touchdown passes for Elon. Backup quarterback Will Lankford, a redshirt freshman, scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.

The final numbers showed Elon with 82 rushing yards and 282 passing yards.

“We should be able to be a balanced football team and be able to run and throw the ball,” Trisciani said. “And we have (done that) and proven that we can.”

Villanova is coming off Saturday’s 37-14 victory at North Carolina A&T when it compiled nearly 400 yards of first-half offense. Elon will be a different challenge for the Wildcats.

“They are 3-0 in the league,” Villanova coach Mark Ferrante said. “Each week is a new week.”

Elon won in its only previous trip to Villanova in 2017, but the Wildcats have prevailed in the other two all-time meetings.

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