#6 Richmond Next Test for Elon Football

ELON, N.C. – Week four of the Elon University football season sees the Phoenix open CAA Football play by traveling to sixth-ranked Richmond for a 6 p.m. contest on Saturday, Sept. 23. This will mark the third road game of the year for the Phoenix, which is coming off of a 19-17 victory over #16 Charleston Southern.


Fans can watch the game live through SpiderTV, Richmond’s streaming platform, for a fee. The game will also be aired in its entirety on SNY and will be joined in progress at 7 p.m. on CSN-MA+. Phoenix faithful can also listen to the game on WSML 104.5 FM and 1200 AM as well as at elonphoenix.com as Taylor Durham and Matt Krause will call the action. The pregame radio coverage will begin at 5 p.m.

• Elon earned a win over #16 Charleston Southern last Saturday, giving the Phoenix back-to-back seasons with a win over a ranked program for the first time since 2010-11.
• In Saturday’s win over the Bucs, junior running back Malcolm Summers ran for a career-best 178 yards on 30 carries. That marked the most rushing yardage by an Elon player since Oct. 30, 2010, when A.J. Harris gained 163 yards.
• Elon picked up a victory in its home opener for the first time since 2013.
• A win over Richmond would be the first in eight tries for Elon. It would also give the Phoenix its first three-game winning streak since the 2010 campaign.
• Senior defensive back Chris Blair needs just six tackles to become the 10th player in program history to reach the 300-tackle mark for his career.

Elon and Richmond will be meeting for the eighth time on Saturday night. The Phoenix is still in search of its first victory over the Spiders. The two first met in 1928 with Richmond earning a 34-0 victory. Since Elon joined CAA Football for the 2014 campaign, Richmond has earned 30-10, 27-14 and 35-7 decisions.

Elon’s 2017 roster sports seven players who call Virginia home. Sophomore linebacker Stephen Copeland (Kellam) and red-shirt freshman Brelynd Cyphers (Green Run) both hail from Virginia Beach. Sophomore twins Ryan (linebacker) and Eric (offensive lineman) Whitehead attended Freedom High and are from South Riding. Red-shirt freshman tight end Chris Rowe (Colonial Forge) is from Fredericksburg. True freshman linebacker Zach Stanley (Woodgrove) hails from Leesburg, while freshman receiver Sam R. Smith (Bishop Ireton) is from Alexandria.

Defensive backs coach Ryan Smith also has Virginia ties, having played at fellow CAA Football member William & Mary.

Now in its 96th season, the Elon football program is closing in on its 500th all-time victory. Elon has an all-time record of 496-444-18 (.527) and needs just four wins to reach the milestone of 500 victories.

Elon is under the leadership of Curt Cignetti who was named the program’s 22nd head football coach on Dec. 31, 2016. The assistant coach/recruiting coordinator on Nick Saban’s undefeated 2009 National Championship team at Alabama, Cignetti spent the previous six seasons as the head coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, amassing a record of 53-17.

Cignetti is the sixth man to guide the Phoenix since the program moved to Division I play for the 1999 season.

Elon’s first-year head coach Curt Cignetti grew up around football. His father Frank compiled a career 199-77-1 record as a collegiate head coach at West Virginia and IUP and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013. His brother Frank Jr. is currently the quarterbacks coach for the New York Giants.

Elon returns five players who started all 11 games of the 2016 season – offensive linemen Ikenna Nwokeji, CJ Toogood and Oli Udoh as well as defensive lineman Dondre Howell and defensive back Chris Blair.

Nwokeji has now made 37 consecutive starts, while Udoh’s streak is at 25 games and Toogood’s is at 14 contests. Toogood has made total of 22 career starts. Blair has started 34 straight games and Howell is at 14.

Other players who have started double digit games are offensive lineman Alex Higgins (21 total, 10 consecutive), wide receiver Corey Joyner (17 total, three consecutive), wide receiver Tre Lennon (18 total) and quarterback Daniel Thompson (16 total), defensive linemen Nick Groll (14 total) and Daniel Everett (10 total, three consecutive) and linebackers Johnathan Jackson (15 total), Warren Messer (11 total, three consecutive) and Matt Baker (11 total, four consecutive).

Elon’s 2017 roster features five players who earned their bachelor’s degrees last spring. Those five are defensive back Chris Blair, offensive linemen Graham Albright and Ikenna Nwokeji and defensive linemen Nick Groll and Dondre Howell. That number rates second in CAA Football behind James Madison’s 10 graduates.

Junior running back Malcolm Summers became the first Elon player to rush for over 150 yards in nearly seven seasons when he posted a career-best 178 yards on the ground in the Phoenix’s 19-17 victory over Charleston Southern. Summers had surpassed his previous career high of 120 yards before halftime as he had gained 127 yards at the break. The last time an Elon back had eclipsed the 150-yard mark on the ground was on Oct. 30, 2010, when A.J. Harris rushed for 163 yards at Chattanooga.

Following a 19-17 win over #16 Charleston Southern that improved the Phoenix to 2-1 on the year, Elon found itself the recipient of a few votes in the STATS FCS Top-25 poll. Elon garnered 66 total points to sit 34th in the rankings.

Taylor Durham ’96 has assumed the play-by-play duties for the Phoenix for the 2017 season. Durham moves to the play-by-play role following eight seasons as the primary color commentator for Elon football. Durham will continue his duties on men’s basketball radio broadcasts this upcoming season on WSML 104.5 FM and 1200 AM as well.

Joining Durham this year will be Matt Krause ’16 who returns to his alma mater as the color analyst for Phoenix football. Krause has previously served Elon Athletics as the play-by-play voice for women’s basketball on Phoenix All-Access and called baseball and basketball games on WSOE, Elon’s student radio station. Krause currently serves as the radio voice of the Burlington Royals minor league baseball team and will continue to serve in play-by-play duties on men’s basketball broadcasts on Phoenix All-Access.