By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
So many things went so well for Elon’s football team but the Phoenix still had to finish off Campbell.
That came with a final defensive stand.
“We’ll take a CAA win anytime,” defensive back Bo Sanders said.
Elon held on for a 28-24 victory on a damp Saturday night at Barker-Lane Stadium in Buies Creek.
Jalen Hampton rushed for four touchdowns to match a school record among his 169 yards.
Quarterback Matthew Downing threw for 116 yards on 13-for-27 passing, making enough clutch throws to put the Phoenix (2-2, 2-0 Coastal Athletic Association) in position for success.
“You’re going to get punched in the mouth a few times, but it’s about getting back up and keep going,” Downing said. “We have each other’s back.”
Elon’s defense cranked out seven sacks, while Sanders’ interception set up a first-half touchdown.
Hampton picked up 95 first-half yards and then gained 22 yards on the first snap of the second half.
“We knew we had to assert ourselves up front,” Elon coach Tony Trisciani said.
The Camels finished with a 402-358 edge in total offense, mostly based on three late possessions.
Campbell had drives of 50 yards following an Elon fumble and 87 yards following a punt for two touchdowns in a span of less than four minutes. A missed extra-point kick on the last TD left the Phoenix with a 28-24 lead with 4:27 to play.
Downing’s third-and-11 completion to tight end Johncarlos Miller for 14 yards helped chew up more time, but Campbell had a final possession beginning at the 56-second mark at its own 16.
The Camels made it to the Elon 37 before time ran out.
“They will never be out of a football game with that offense,” Trisciani said of the Camels (2-2, 1-2). “Just getting the stops there when we had to.”
Much of the good work from Elon’s defense went for naught on Campbell’s 15-play, 89-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter. Hajj-Malik Williams scrambled 22 yards for the touchdown on third-and-19 shortly after the Camels converted on third-and-20.
The Phoenix answered in a huge way, putting Hampton to work for four rushes to go with Miller’s 26-yard catch that all added up to another touchdown. Hampton’s 1-yard run finished it.
“It was a great response by our offense,” Trisciani said.
The second touchdown for the Phoenix came after Sanders’ interception and return to the Campbell 41. Sanders and Caleb Curtain co-lead the team with 10 tackles.
Elon has defeated the league’s two newcomers – beating North Carolina A&T a week earlier – to achieve the 2-0 league start. Next it becomes more challenging when preseason conference favorite William & Mary visits Rhodes Stadium on Saturday afternoon.