Elon Football set to begin CAA conference action

Elon Football begins preparations for the start of conference play this week as the team takes on the Tribe of William & Mary this Saturday.

The Phoenix are on a two-game winning streak en route to conference play after beating Gardner-Webb in a nail biter on Sept. 17 at Rhodes Stadium. After a 30-24 win, a season-long Elon currently sits sixth in the Colonial Athletic Association record of 2-1.

After last season’s 5-3 conference win, head coach Tony Trisciani is confident in his team and the experience his players bring to the table this time.

“Like most teams in our league and in football, many of us have experience of returning,” said Trisciani. “Especially for us, being a development program we’ve been able to keep our players so we’ll have some experience when we come back.”

The Phoenix’s offense got off to a hot start in three games, averaging 29 points per game with 10 total touchdowns.

Senior quarterback Matthew McKay has begun to assert himself on offense while receiving help from redshirt freshman running back Jalen Hampton. Hampton charging onto the stage against Gardner-Webb has made Elon’s offense more complete and more difficult to defend.

“We want to manage football,” said Trisciani. “We know this will open things up on the rim and we’ve had a lot of success here with the play-action pass over the past few weeks. When teams load the box for us, we have to take what they give us.”

The defensive line fueled Elon’s defense in the first three games of the season, totaling 10 sacks and eight quarterback hits.

According to Trisciani, runners-up allows them to play “fast, free and aggressive” when they can make a difference in attack, and there’s one player who has made that particularly possible this season – defensive line Torrence Williams.

“It was a disruptive front for us,” said Trisciani. “Williams is a veteran player and a leader who’s ready to really have a breakout season here in the CAA.”

Williams, a redshirt senior, recorded 1.5 sacks, four total tackles and one pass breakup in the win over Gardner-Webb. As the leader of the defense, his influence extends beyond the stat sheet for that defense.

“The thing about our boys is that we’re very close,” Williams said. “We hold each other accountable. We love each other. So when things get really hot, we know how to stick together and turn things around.”

That level of trust and camaraderie on defense has paid off for the Phoenix on the field this season. Elon’s defense has only allowed 14 second-half points in three games, with all 14 points coming in the first game of the season against Vanderbilt. On Saturday, September 17, Elon’s defense rebounded after trailing 24-20 at halftime, leading to a fallow performance in the second half.

Elon’s defense will face a monster test in game one of conference play this weekend against No. 5 William & Mary. The tribe’s offense has averaged 37.33 points this season and is a strong, balanced offense that has enabled a 3-0 start to the season.

The Phoenix offense will have its own tough challenge preparing for the William & Mary defense, which boasts three weapons that have made compelling headlines all season: junior defensive lineman Nate Lynn, redshirt freshman cornerback Jalen Jones and sophomore Linebacker John Pius.

Lynn, the CAA’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, made five All-American teams last season. Jones was named the FedEx Ground Football Championship Subdivision National Defensive Player of the Week after a performance of three interceptions against Campbell. Pius was named CAA Football Defensive Player of the Week this week after a performance of eight tackles and 3.5 sacks in Lafayette.

The stage is set for a great matchup that will take place on September 24th at 3:30pm in Williamsburg, Virginia to kick off this season’s CAA action.

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