Elon Football Set to Host FCS Playoff Game

ELON, N.C. – For the first time since winning the 1981 NAIA national title, the Elon University football team will be hosting a playoff football game. The Phoenix will begin its 2017 NCAA Division I Football Championship play by hosting the Furman Paladins in a 1 p.m. game at Rhodes Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 25. Elon’s run in the 2017 NCAA FCS Playoffs is presented by Courtyard by Marriott Burlington.


Fans can watch the game for free on ESPN3. 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 noon.

Season ticket holders who have a season parking pass will receive regular season parking access if they reserved their game tickets by the priority deadline (Nov. 21 at 5 p.m.). These passes can be picked up during box office hours, at the home men’s basketball game against Radford on Wednesday, Nov. 22, or at a Phoenix Club Parking Will Call on game day. Drive through Phoenix Club Parking Will Call will be located in front of the Center for the Arts and will open at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning (Parking Will Call Map). If you are not a season ticket holder but are interested in parking pass availability, or if you have any questions, please contact Kara Nunnally at 336-278-6781.

8:00 a.m. – Parking lots open
8:00 a.m. – Drive through Phoenix Club Parking Will Call opens
11:00 a.m. – Shuttle bus service begins
11:30 p.m. – Ticket windows, bag check and gates open
11:30 p.m. – Phun Zone opens
12:45 p.m. – Fire of the Carolinas performs / National anthem
12:45 p.m. – Letterwinner’s Lounge opens in the Walker Room of Alumni Field House
12:57 p.m. – Elon takes the field
1:04 p.m. – Kickoff of Elon vs. Furman

Elon University has implemented a policy for bags entering Rhodes Stadium. All bags entering the stadium will be checked before fans reach the ticket booths at the facility. Multiple lines will be available and there will be specific lines for fans entering with no bags.

The following items will be prohibited from Rhodes Stadium:
• Weapons
• Explosives
* Alcoholic beverages
• Outside food and beverages
• Smoking and tobacco products
• E-cigarettes
• Umbrellas
• Containers or coolers
• Flags on poles
• Bicycles, skateboards or rollerblades
• Pets (except service animals)

For more information on ticketing, parking and directions to Rhodes Stadium, please visit the Football Game Day web page.

• Elon is making its second FCS Playoff appearance; the last came in 2009 when the Phoenix lost in the first round at Richmond
• Elon is hosting a playoff game for the first time since the 1981 NAIA National Championship game, a 3-0 Elon win over Pittsburg State (Kan.)
• Including a win on the road this season, the Phoenix has won six of the last seven games against Furman
• Elon quarterback Davis Cheek was named the CAA Football Offensive Rookie of the Year, becoming the first Phoenix football player to earn a league freshman or rookie of the year honor since quarterback Scott Riddle did so in the Southern Conference in 2007
• Elon’s six all-conference selections were the most for the program since nine Phoenix players picked up All-SoCon honors in 2010

Elon trails the all-time series with Furman by an 11-7 margin, but the Phoenix has won six of the last seven meetings with the Paladins. The two met earlier this season with Elon earning a 34-31 victory thanks to an Owen Johnson field goal with just five seconds to play. This will be just the sixth all-time meeting at Rhodes Stadium.

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 502-446-18 (.529).

While Elon will be making just its second appearance in the FCS Playoffs, the program is no stranger to postseason play. Elon won back-to-back NAIA National Championships in 1980-81 and also made postseason play in 1973, 1974, 1976 and 1978.

At the FCS level, Elon’s previous appearance came in 2009. The Phoenix dropped a 16-13 decision at #4 Richmond that year.

As a head coach, Curt Cignetti has led a team to the playoffs three times. Cignetti took his IUP teams to the NCAA Division II Playoffs in 2012, 2015 and 2016. In the two most recent appearances, IUP reached the second round of tournament play, while the squad advanced to the quarterfinals in 2012.

Junior linebacker Warren Messer is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award that is presented to the FCS defensive player of the year. Messer currently leads Elon with 103 total tackles. He has 10.0 tackles for a loss, including 5.5 sacks, and has intercepted two passes. He ranks 28th nationally, and second in the conference, with 9.4 tackles per game.

Freshman quarterback Davis Cheek is a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award that is presented to the top FCS freshman. Cheek has completed 166 of his 280 passes for 2,230 yards and 14 touchdowns. He is 36th nationally and fourth in the league with a passing efficiency mark of 137.7. Among freshmen, he is third nationally in passing yards, fourth in passing yards per game, fourth in passing touchdowns and second in passing efficiency.

Head coach Curt Cignetti guided Elon to a six-win turnaround in the 2017 regular season and that performance has earned the first-year Phoenix coach a spot as one of the 18 finalists for the 2017 STATS FCS Eddie Robinson Award. The Eddie Robinson Award is presented to the FCS Coach of the Year.

A total of seven Elon players and head coach Curt Cignetti were recognized with postseason honors in voting conducted by CAA Football coaches. Cignetti was selected as the conference coach of the year, while freshman quarterback Davis Cheek was named the league’s offensive rookie of the year.

Elon also had players honored on each of the three all-conference squads. Junior linebacker Warren Messer was the lone first team honoree, while junior running back Malcolm Summersand junior offensive lineman CJ Toogood were second team picks. Representing Elon on the third team were freshman wide recevier Kortez Weeks, senior offensive lineman Ikenna Nwokejiand senior safety Chris Blair.

With four victories over ranked opponents, the Elon football team remains ranked among the top 25 in both national polls that were announced following the conclusion of the regular season. The Phoenix sits at #15 in the STATS FCS Poll, and is #17 in the FCS Coaches Poll this week.


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).

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, who had his streak of 42 consecutive starts snapped in the contest with Towson, has made 44 career starts and two straight. Udoh’s streak has reached 33 games and Toogood’s is at 22 contests. Toogood has made total of 30 career starts. Blair has started 42 straight games and Howell is at 22.

Other players who have started double digit games are offensive linemen Alex Higgins (27 total, four consecutive) and Matt Kowalewski (14 total, 11 consecutive), tight end Matt Foster (14 total, six consecutive), wide receivers Corey Joyner (25 total, 11 consecutive), Tre Lennon (24 total) and Kortez Weeks (11 total, 11 consecutive), running back Malcolm Summers (10 total), quarterbacks Daniel Thompson (16 total) and Davis Cheek (11 total, 11 consecutive), defensive linemen Nick Groll (14 total), Daniel Everett (10 total) and Tristen Cox (11 total, 11 consecutive), linebackers Johnathan Jackson (16 total), Warren Messer (19 total, 11 consecutive) and Matt Baker (16 total, four consecutive) and defensive backs Greg Liggs Jr. (12 total), Tyler Campbell(11 total, 11 consecutive) and Daniel Reid-Bennett (11 total, 11 consecutive).

The Phoenix has won eight games this season, but its largest margin of 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.