By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
This is a rare situation for Elon’s football team. The Phoenix is coming off a loss.
“If you’re going to lose one, why not now?” center Mike Purcell said, referencing last week’s setback at Rhode Island. “It’s all about how you respond. We’re a pretty resilient team.”
Next, No. 21 Elon (5-2 overall, 3-1 Colonial Athletic Association) takes on No. 25 New Hampshire on Saturday afternoon in Durham, N.H.
The Phoenix didn’t much care for the result last week, a 17-10 defeat at then-No. 25 Rhode Island that ended a five-game winning streak.
“That hurt us,” linebacker Jamir Malone said. “We were on a good streak. We have a lot of older players. We have that will to bounce back.”
Coach Tony Trisciani said good teams hit challenging moments. That was his message to the team.
“We just lost a football game, a close football game,” Trisciani said. “So did Alabama, and so did USC, and so did Oklahoma State. They’re pretty good football teams, too. I referenced the Duke-UNC game that a lot of our kids in this area watched on Saturday night. You see there, it’s hard to win a football game.”
Elon held a 10-3 halftime lead. Rhode Island broke a fourth-quarter tie with an interception return for a touchdown.
“They outplayed us in the second half and were the first team to do so in the last seven weeks,” Trisciani said. “I don’t have much concern about us bouncing back. We’ve been a one-week-at-a-time operation.”
The offensive and defensive units vow to improve.
“That was rough,” Purcell said of not scoring in the second half. “We’re not going to let it happen again. We’re making some adjustments.”
It marked the first time in a six-game stretch against Football Championship Subdivision opposition that Elon’s defense allowed a second-half touchdown.
“If a touchdown is what made us lose, that’s something we have to fix,” Malone said. “We still have that juice. You see a hungry defense.”
New Hampshire (5-2, 4-0) holds first place. Elon is one of six teams with one CAA loss.
Trisciani had two stints as an assistant coach at New Hampshire, first as running backs coach and later as defensive backs coach. He’s a native of the state.
During his second go-around with the Wildcats, he recruited Rick Santos, who went on to a record-setting career as a quarterback. Now, Santos is the team’s first-year coach.
This week, Trisciani recalled the impact Santos made upon arriving as a player for the Wildcats. As a junior in 2006, he was the Walter Payton Award winner as the top offensive player in the FCS.
Elon has never won in three previous visits to Wildcat Stadium.