ELON, N.C. – With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Elon University football team will play its final CAA Football road game of the year at New Hampshire on Saturday, Nov. 11. Game time between the No. 7 Phoenix and No. 16 Wildcats is set for 2 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium in Durham, N.H.
Fans can watch the game live on Fox College Sports Atlantic and through Fox Sports Go. The television broadcast will feature Matt Janus on play-by-play duties, while Brad Jackson will serve as the analyst. 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 Dan Wyar will call the action. The pregame radio coverage will begin at 1 p.m.
PHAST PHIVE PHOENIX PHACTS
• For the first time since early in the 2009 season, Elon had a pair of players rush for over 100 yards as Brelynd Cyphers (129) and De’Sean McNair (107) both did so in the win over Towson
• Elon improved to 6-5 all-time in overtime games thanks to its 33-30 victory over Towson last Saturday
• Thanks to a nine-catch, 139-yard performance against Towson, receiver Kortez Weeks has had back-to-back games with over 100 receiving yards (had 11 catches for 205 yards at Villanova)
• Elon’s eight-game winning streak is the longest in a single season since a 12-game streak in 1980 and is the longest overall since a 10-game streak that spanned the 1981-82 seasons
• With a win this week, Elon would achieve its best start to a year since 1980, a season in which the maroon and gold went 13-1
Every meeting between Elon and UNH has come since the Phoenix joined CAA Football for the 2014 season. Elon is 0-3 against the Wildcats. Last season, the Phoenix fell just short of earning a victory, falling by a 13-10 score at Rhodes Stadium in a game that was moved to Friday night due to Hurricane Matthew.
NEW HAMPSHIRE TIES
While Elon’s roster does not have any players from New Hampshire, the Phoenix program does have a tie to the Granite State. Defensive coordinator Tony Trisciani is a New Hampshire native and had two stints on the UNH football coaching staff.
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 502-444-18 (.530).
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 had his streak of 42 consecutive starts snapped in the contest with Towson. Udoh’s streak has reached 31 games and Toogood’s is at 20 contests. Toogood has made total of 28 career starts. Blair has started 40 straight games and Howell is at 20.
Other players who have started double digit games are offensive linemen Alex Higgins (25 total, two consecutive) and Matt Kowalewski (12 total, nine consecutive), tight end Matt Foster (12 total, four consecutive), wide receiver Corey Joyner (23 total, nine consecutive), wide receiver Tre Lennon (23 total, three consecutive), running back Malcolm Summers (10 total), quarterback Daniel Thompson (16 total), defensive linemen Nick Groll (14 total) and Daniel Everett (10 total), linebackers Johnathan Jackson (16 total), Warren Messer (17 total, nine consecutive) and Matt Baker (14 total, two consecutive) and defensive back Greg Liggs Jr. (11 total, nine consecutive).
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 an eight-game winning streak that includes four victories over ranked opponents, the Elon football team continued its rise in the national polls on Monday, Nov. 6. The Phoenix held steady at #7 in the STATS FCS Poll, and moved from #10 to #9 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 8-1, Elon is off to its best start since 2009.
After going 2-9 overall a year ago, the Phoenix has engineered a six-game improvement in the win column in 2017, tied for the second-best turnaround in program history. The largest improvement was an eight-game difference from 1979 (five wins) to 1980 (13 wins). Elon also had a six-game difference from 1975 (five wins) to 1976 (11 wins).
Junior linebacker Warren Messer was added to the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award on Oct. 18. Messer currently leads Elon with 84 total tackles. He has 7.5 tackles for a loss, including 4.0 sacks, and has intercepted two passes. He ranks 29th nationally, and second in the conference, with 9.3 tackles per game.
Freshman quarterback Davis Cheek was named to the initial watch list for the Jerry Rice Award on Oct. 25. Cheek has completed 137 of his 216 passes for 1,821 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is 25th nationally and fourth in the league with a passing efficiency mark of 147.6. Among freshmen, he is fourth nationally in passing yards, fourth in passing yards per game and second in passing efficiency.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
The Phoenix is riding an eight-game winning streak, but its largest margin ov victory in those eight games is just eight points. Elon’s eight victories have come by a combined 31 points. Five of the eight 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, recorded a sack on the last play to defeat William & Mary and kicked a field goal in double overtime to beat Towson. Elon also had to hold off a final Rhode Island drive, intercepting a pass at its own 19 with 28 seconds left.
WEEKS IN RARE AIR
Over the past two weeks, freshman receiver Kortez Weeks has a combined 20 receptions for 344 yards. He snared 11 balls for 205 yards in a win over Villanova and followed that up with nine grabs for 139 yards in a win over Towson. Weeks is the first Phoenix player to post back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since Aaron Mellette finished the 2012 campaign with three straight such games. Mellette also had a five-game streak of 100-yard games that same season.
TWO BACKS, TWO 100-YARD RUSHERS
For the first time since a 2009 victory over Presbyterian, Elon saw two running backs eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark in the same game. In the win over Towson, both Brelynd Cyphers(129 yards) and De’Sean McNair (107 yards) surpassed the century mark. The last time that happened it was Jamal Shuman (190 yards) and A.J. Harris (116 yards) leading the ground game in a win over the Blue Hose.
JOHNSON, CYPHERS PICK UP LEAGUE ACCOLADES
After Elon picked up its eight consecutive victory by downing Towson in double overtime, two Phoenix players were honored by the league with weekly awards. Kicker Owen Johnson was named the league’s special team player of the week, while running back Brelynd Cyphers was chosen as the rookie of the week.
Johnson made a career-best four field goals, including two in overtime. The freshman connected on field goals of 32, 19 and 28 yards before booting a 26-yarder in the second overtime for his third game-winning kick of the season. Johnson leads the CAA with 14 field goals for the season.
Cyphers rushed for a career-high 129 yards and a touchdown on only 14 carries. The red-shirt freshman averaged 9.2 yards per carry and his five-yard scoring run gave Elon a 21-10 advantage in the third quarter. Cyphers and teammate DeSean McNair gave Elon a pair of 100-yard backs in the same game for the first time since 2009.