GREENVILLE, S.C. – Davis Cheek for 301 yards and three touchdowns and Owen Johnson hit a 36-yard field goal with five seconds left to lift the Elon Phoenix to a 34-31 victory over former Southern Conference rival Furman at Paladin Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 9.
The win was the first of Coach Curt Cignetti’s Elon career as the Phoenix improved to 1-1 on the year. The loss dropped the Paladins to 0-2.
Quotable: “I told him (Owen Johnson) twice that I love him. He came through in the clutch. It was a great job by a lot of guys to kind of weather the storm and keep their composure and come back and get our first win of the year. I knew how bad we wanted it. This is the expectation, that we’re successful on Saturday. We’re back to work tomorrow. I’m proud of so many guys. Furman had the momentum in this game for a very long period of time. We just hung in there and didn’t panic. We ended up prevailing. I thought our kids really did a great job in crunch time of making plays.” – head coach Curt Cignetti.
“It’s just magnificent. It’s just a wonderful feeling. At the end of the day, we went out and executed and did our job. I was telling everybody, ‘If we get the ball back, we’re going to score. There’s no other option.’ There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to march down that field and either kick a field goal or put it in the box (end zone). We knew what we had to do. You can’t let the situation get too big for you. Everyone was calm.” – quarterback Davis Cheek.
How it happened: After forcing a Furman punt to get the ball back with 1:05 to play, Elon began one final drive from its 35 with the score all square at 31. On second-and-12, Cheek hit Corey Joyner for a gain of 23 yards to get in Paladin territory. Elon moved to the 22 following a pass interference penalty and then reached the 17 on a five-yard run by De’Sean McNair. After Cheek took a knee to get the ball in the middle of the field, Johnson, the true freshman, came on and drilled a 36-yard field goal to give the Phoenix the victory.
Elon exploded to an early 21-0 lead in the first quarter as Cheek tossed scores of 13 and 19 yards to Malcolm Summers and Tre Lennon, respectively, and Brelynd Cyphers drove it in from two yards out.
The first score came on the game’s opening drive as Elon marched 75 yards in 10 plays. During the drive, the maroon and gold converted a fourth-and-four from the Furman 24 when Cheek connected with Kortez Weeks for eight yards. Three plays later, Summers hauled in a swing pass for the first touchdown. On Furman’s second play of the game, Dondre Howell fell on a loose ball to set the Phoenix up at the Furman 24. On third-and-five, Cheek made the TD toss to Lennon. With just over five minutes left in the first quarter, Elon got the ball back at the Furman 23 thanks to another fumble that was picked up by Nick Groll. Cyphers toted the ball across the goal line on the seventh play of the drive to make it 21-0.
Furman got things going in the second quarter, getting on the board with a 17-play, 94-yard drive that saw Antonio Wilcox score on a run from eight yards out. The Paladins, who controlled the ball for over 11 minutes in the second period, added a field goal after a 12-play, 68-yard drive late in the half to make it a 21-10 game at the break.
After starting the second half at its own 35, Furman marched down the field and pulled within four on a Darius Morehead 13-yard run and then took the lead on its next possession when PJ Blazejowski found a streaking Thomas Gordon for a 77-yard touchdown pass.
On the ensuing drive, Cheek completed four of his five passes for 66 yards as the Phoenix saw Johnson tie the game with a 23-yard field goal with under five minutes to go in the third quarter.
Furman came right back, marching 65 yards in 10 plays to claim a 31-24 advantage on a Ridge Gibson three-yard score.
After the sides exchanged a few punts, Elon got the ball back with 7:31 to play at its own 38. After a pair of five-yard runs and a pair of six-yard passes, the Phoenix had moved to the Furman 40. Three completions from Cheek took the ball to the 26-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-five at the 25, Cheek dropped back and hit Lennon for a gain of 10 to move the chains. The young gunslinger went back to Lennon on the next play as the receiver hauled in his second touchdown pass of the day to knot the score at 31 with just under three minutes to play.
Elon – Brelynd Cyphers (20 carries, 75 yards, 1 TD)
Furman – PJ Blazejowski (17 carries, 80 yards)
Elon – Davis Cheek (26-35, 301 yards, 3 TD)
Furman – PJ Blazejowski (5-13, 138 yards, 1 TD)
Elon – Tre Lennon (9 receptions, 83 yards, 2 TD)
Furman – Thomas Gordon (2 receptions, 95 yards, 1 TD)
Elon – Tyler Campbell (15 tackles, 1.0 sack, 2.0 TFL)
Furman – Alex Burch (12 tackles, 1.0 sack, 1.0 TFL)
Noteworthy: Elon has now won its last four games at Paladin Stadium and has defeated Furman in six of the last seven meetings… The 34 points scored by the Phoenix were the most for the program since putting up 49 in a win over West Virginia Wesleyan on Sept. 7, 2013… Tre Lennon became the first Elon receiver with at least nine receptions in a game since Andre Davis had 11 grabs against New Hampshire on Oct. 4, 2014… Lennon also became the first Phoenix receiver with a multiple touchdown game since Corey Joyner had two in a win at Maine on Nov. 14, 2015.
Up Next: Elon will play its home opener next Saturday, Sept. 16, against Charleston Southern. Game time is set for 6 p.m.