ELON, N.C. – The 10th-ranked Elon University football team will go for its seventh consecutive victory this weekend when it travels to 13th-rated Villanova for a 3:30 p.m. date with the Wildcats on Saturday, Oct. 28. This will mark Elon’s fourth game against a top-25 opponent this season.
Fans can watch the game live through College Sports Live for a fee. Phoenix faithful can also listen to the game on WSJS 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 2:30 p.m.
PHAST PHIVE PHOENIX PHACTS
• Elon’s win over Rhode Island was a historic one for the program as it marked the 500th victory in the history of the program
• Career highs were plentiful on the offensive side of the ball at URI – Davis Cheek had 331 passing yards and three passing touchdowns; De’Sean McNair ran for 126 yards, scored two touchdowns and carried the ball 28 times; Corey Joyner had eight catches for 185 yards
• Elon moved to 6-1 for the first time since 2009, a season that saw the Phoenix get off to an 8-1 mark
• With a win, the Phoenix would run its winning streak to seven games, which would be the longest since a seven-game streak in 2008
• Elon earned a national ranking of 10th in the STATS FCS poll this week, marking the first top-10 ranking for the program since the final week of Sept. 2010
The only other meeting between Elon and Villanova occurred last season at Elon’s Rhodes Stadium. The Wildcats knocked off the Phoenix by a 42-7 margin.
Elon’s roster sports just two players from the state of Pennsylvania – red-shirt freshman kicker Ford Harvey is from Newtown Square (Delaware County Christian), while freshman tight end Jack Crossed hails from Philadelphia (St. Joseph’s Prep).
Among the Phoenix coaching staff, head coach Curt Cignetti came to Elon from IUP where he spent six seasons as the head coach. Defensive coordinator Tony Trisciani spent five seasons on the Villanova staff and served as head coach at Whitehall High School. Assistant defensive line coach Dillon Lucas played at Villanova where he was the 2011 CAA Football Defensive Rookie of the Year and an all-conference performer. Lucas spent last season on the staff at Moravian College. Offensive coordinator Drew Folmar came to Elon from Lehigh University. Folmar spent time as both an assistant and head coach at Kutztown University and as a player and assistant coach at Millersville University. Wide receivers coach Mike Shanahan was a standout player for the University of Pittsburgh where he finished his career ranked in the program’s top 10 in both receptions (159) and receiving yards (2,276). Shanahan spent time with Cignetti at IUP. Offensive line coach Damian Wroblewski served as an assistant at the University of Pennsylvania and played at Lafayette College. Linebackers coach Bryant Haines spent two seasons on Cignetti’s staff at IUP. Defensive backs coach Ryan Smith spent two seasons as a graduate assistant at Penn State University. Director of operations James Ferguson attended Clarion University and spent time at IUP.
THE BIG 5-0-0
Now in its 96th season, the Elon football program is eraned its 500th all-time victory with a 35-34 decision over Rhode Island on Oct. 21, 2017. Elon has an all-time record of 500-444-18 (.529).
FIRST-YEAR HEAD COACH
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.
THE FAMILY BUSINESS
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 40 consecutive starts, while Udoh’s streak is at 28 games and Toogood’s is at 17 contests. Toogood has made total of 25 career starts. Blair has started 37 straight games and Howell is at 17.
Other players who have started double digit games are offensive lineman Alex Higgins (23 total), wide receiver Corey Joyner (20 total, six consecutive), wide receiver Tre Lennon (20 total), running back Malcolm Summers (10 total, four consecutive), quarterback Daniel Thompson (16 total), defensive linemen Nick Groll (14 total) and Daniel Everett (10 total) and linebackers Johnathan Jackson (16 total), Warren Messer (14 total, six consecutive) and Matt Baker (12 total).
FIVE GRADUATES ON 2017 ROSTER
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.
ELON RISES IN NATIONAL POLLS
Riding a six-game winning streak that includes three consecutive victories over ranked opponents, the Elon football team continued its rise in the national polls on Monday, Oct. 23. The Phoenix climbed from #14 to #10 in the STATS FCS Poll, and moved from #15 to #11 in the FCS Coaches Poll this week. For the first time since the final week of 2009, Elon is ranked among the nation’s top 10 teams. At 6-1, Elon is off to its best start since 2009.
Junior linebacker Warren Messer was added to the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award on Oct. 18. Messer currently leads Elon with 71 total tackles. He has 4.5 tackles for a loss, including a pair of sacks, and has intercepted two passes. He ranks 16th nationally, and leads the conference, with 10.1 tackles per game.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
The Phoenix is riding a six-game winning streak, but its largest margin ov victory in those five games is just eight points. Four of the five games came down to a final play as Elon hit a field goal with just five seconds remaining to win at Furman, partially blocked a 51-yard field goal attempt on the final play to hold off Charleston Southern, batted down a pass on the final play to shutout Albany and record a sack on the last play to defeat William & Mary. Elon also had to hold off a final Rhode Island drive, intercepting a pass at its own 19 with 28 seconds left.
DURHAM, KRAUSE PARTNER IN RADIO BOOTH
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 WSJS 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.