TOWSON, Md. – Trailing by 15 in the second half, Elon University football battled to the finish to win 25-23 in its regular-season finale on the road at No. 19 Towson at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Down by two touchdowns at the break at 17-3, Elon (5-6, 4-4) started its comeback early in the third with a safety on the first possession of the frame. With Towson electing to receive the second-half kickoff at the onset of the day, Elon’s defensive front pushed the Tigers backwards with three consecutive tackles for loss, the second two going as sacks of Tom Flacco with Devonte Chandler bringing him down in the end zone to make it 17-5 with 12:24 to play in the third.
Though punting on its ensuing drive, the Phoenix answered a Towson field goal with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that saw Joey Baughman throw his first-career touchdown pass with a shovel flip to Kortez Weeks from five yards out to bring the deficit to 20-12. Marcus Hillman then stripped a Towson ball carrier two plays later on the Tiger drive and Elon took over in enemy territory. Though going backwards with an illegal hands to the face penalty on first down, Davis Cheek rushed for 21 yards to get Elon back in business and he found De’Sean McNair four plays later on a 39-yard screen pass that McNair danced to the house for a touchdown to close the third quarter. Trailing 20-18, a false start penalty on the two-point conversion forced Elon to kick the point after to make it a one-point game through three quarters.
In the fourth, Towson’s Aidan O’Neill added a field goal to make it a four-point game with 11:54 to play and Elon answered by driving 63 yards on 12 plays, stalling out for a Skyler Davis 29-yard field goal with 7:09 to play to make it a 23-22 ball game. Getting the ball back, Towson milked the clock inside of three minutes with O’Neill missing a field goal from 43 yards out after Stephen Copeland stopped the forward march with a sack on third down. Driving for Elon’s first lead of the day, Cheek hit Bryson Daughtry over the middle on first down for 24 yards and took an unnecessary roughness penalty two plays later to get into Tiger territory. A 16-yard completion to McNair and a seven-yard rush by Jaylan Thomas pushed Elon to the Towson 18 with 55 seconds to play, and Towson’s defense came up with three stops to force a field goal attempt with 41 seconds to play in regulation. Hitting his third attempt of the day, Davis was true from 35 yards out to give Elon a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
On the ensuing Towson drive, Greg Liggs, Jr. intercepted Flacco with 21 seconds to play to seal the victory. The interception was Liggs’ eighth of the season, putting an exclamation point on his senior season in which he set the mark for most in a Division I season at Elon while pacing the nation in 2019.
Elon: Davis Cheek – 12/24, 209 yards, 1 touchdown
Towson: Tom Flacco – 15/27, 214 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
Elon: Brelynd Cyphers – 10 carries, 41 yards
Towson: Yeedee Thaenrat – 11 carries, 103 yards
Elon: De’Sean McNair – 3 receptions, 71 yards, 1 touchdown
Towson: Daniel Thompson IV – 5 receptions, 80 yards
Elon: Marcus Willoughby – 6 tackles, 4 solo, 3.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Towson: Christian Dixon – 8 tackles, 6 solo, 1.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 1 QBH
-Tre’Von Jones’ second-quarter interception stands as the first of his career.
-Elon’s safety is the first recorded by the Phoenix since Warren Messer’s sack against William & Mary on Oct. 7, 2017.
-The victory is Elon’s first in a season finale since the 2010 season and is the first win in a regular-season finale on the road since 2009.
-Marcus Willoughby closed his career with a season-high 3.5 tackles for loss. The total fell just short of his career-best 4.5 against New Hampshire on Sept. 29, 2018.
-Elon has now defeated nine nationally-ranked teams over the course of the last four seasons after not beating one since the 2011 campaign.
Turning its attention to the offseason, Elon will sign the newest members of the program with Early Signing Day on Wednesday, Dec. 18, before looking ahead to Signing Day the first week of February.
With the 2020 football schedule announced this week, Elon will next be back on the field Sept. 5 for a road matchup against The Citadel. Next season, Elon will open with two on the road at The Citadel and Duke (Sept. 12) before playing at Rhodes Stadium on Sept. 19 against Campbell. For the full schedule, click here.