ELON, N.C. – With a pair of program-record plays to close the first half, sixth-ranked Elon University football took a two-score lead to halftime and never looked back on the way to a 24-21 victory on Homecoming at Rhodes Stadium against Rhode Island.
“We’ll take wins any way we can get them,” said Elon head coach Curt Cignetti. “Rhode Island is a really tough football team, they were rolling until their quarterback got hurt but he was ready for us and he was out there spinning that ball. We did a great job on defense against the run and we put tremendous pressure on the quarterback and disrupted his rhythm. This is a good win for our team.”
With 222 yards on the ground on 18 carries, Jaylan Thomas’s total is the ninth-best total in program history. He amassed the total on just 18 carries to average 12.3 yards per carry.
Tied at seven with 2:02 to go before halftime, Thomas broke loose on the first play of the drive for an 86-yard touchdown rush. The carry is the fifth-longest in Elon football history and the longest since Derrick Moore had a program-record 90-yard carry against Morehead State in 1998.
On the ensuing Rhode Island (5-4, 3-3 CAA Football) drive, the Rams drove into Elon (6-2, 4-1 CAA Football) territory before Matt Baker batted a JaJuan Lawson pass up into the air and Warren Messer returned the interception 86 yards for the seventh-longest return in program history to put the Phoenix up 21-7 at the break.
Elon put together a 21-point run after URI took 7-0 lead to the second quarter. It’s first scoring drive drove six plays, 73 yards and De’Sean McNair capped it with a two-yard touchdown run to get Elon on the board. McNair also had carries of 15 and 30 yards on the drive to help the Phoenix down the field.
With Elon up 21-7 heading to the fourth, URI broke Elon’s 21-point run with a 14-play, 70-yard drive that found the end zone with 6:41 to play, but a Skyler Davis 19-yard field goal with 2:41 to play provided the difference with URI again finding the end zone with 1:12 to play to cut the lead to three. Looking to keep the ball, Rhode Island attempted an onside kick but it was recovered by the Phoenix to ice the game.
Elon: Jaylan Thomas – 18 carries, 222 yards, 1 touchdown
URI: Naim Jones – 10 carries, 54 yards
Elon: Jalen Greene – 3-8, 35 yards
URI: JaJuan Lawson – 25-35, 349 yards, 3 touchdowns
Elon: Bryson Daughtry – 2 receptions, 23 yards
URI: Aaron Parker – 9 receptions, 190 yards, 3 touchdowns
Elon: Warren Messer – 14 tackles, 7 solo, 2.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 interception, 1 touchdown
URI: D.J. Stewart – 11 tackles, 7 solo, 0.5 TFL
-Saturday’s game marked the 100th all-time game at Rhodes Stadium for the Phoenix.
-The Phoenix has thrown a total of 19 passes over the course of the last two games. In contrast, it’s run the ball 105 times in that stretch.
-Elon is now 4-0 at home in back-to-back seasons.
-In not scoring on its first drive, it marked the first time Elon had not scored on its first drive at home this season.
-Saturday’s game was played in front of 10,513 fans at Rhodes Stadium. That marks the third-largest Homecoming crowd in the stadium’s history.
Closing the home portion of its 2018 schedule, Elon will host No. 15 Towson on Senior Day next Saturday, Nov. 10, for a 12 noon kickoff at Rhodes Stadium. Last season, Elon beat Towson 33-30 in double overtime at home.