After the death of their third-year wide receiver Dimitri Allison on Wednesday, the Elon University Phoenix were able to pull together for a win versus the Maine Black Bears. The Phoenix held onto a five-point lead late in the game, holding off a Maine comeback to win 27-22.
“It’s been a hard, hard week on all of us and I told the kids that what we experience over the next three hours will be something that none of us will forget,” Elon Head Coach Rich Skrosky said.
Before the game even was played, Elon had to decide whether they even wanted to come and play the game in the first place. Eventually, the player’s leadership group said that they wanted to play.
“I can’t say enough about the love and support our teammates have shown each other, our coaches, our staff,” fourth-year defensive back Miles Williams said. “The Elon community has been huge in supporting one another. We wanted to play for Dimitri and to see us go out and get this win and play with the grit that we did was huge.”
“I want to commend the guys at Maine for reaching out and putting more important things above the game,” Skrosky added. “All of the support and reaching out that the Maine folks showed us over the week is what the sport is all about.”
Elon certainly had its gameplay figured out, as the Phoenix were able to capitalize despite having less than 200 total offensive yards.
The Phoenix had 185 total yards of offense, led by their redshirt first-year quarterback Connor Christiansen. Christiansen went 13-21 for 95 yards while throwing two touchdowns.
First-year receiver Corey Joyner was Christiansen’s favorite target, connecting for three passes, two of them touchdowns, all for 35 yards. First-year running back Malcolm Summers led the rising attack, running for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Maine was led by third-year quarterback Dan Collins, who went 23-49 for 295 yards and three touchdowns. First-year receiver Micah Wright was Collins’ top receiver, making nine catches for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
On the ground, Maine was led by redshirt first-year running back Darian Davis-Ray, who had been sidelined by injury earlier in the season. He ran for 52 yards on seven attempts.
Both teams struggled on third down, with Maine converting just a quarter of their attempts and Elon converting four of 14. Maine also took four penalties for 45 yards. Two of those penalties took away first downs for the Black Bears.
Defensively, fourth-year linebacker Cabrinni Gonclaves led the Black Bears with 13 tackles and a sack. Maine also recovered a fumble and had two interceptions in the game.
Elon countered with third-year linebacker John Silas, who made 12 tackles. The Phoenix defense also had five sacks on the day, as well as a fumble recovery and an interception.
Elon would be the first to score, getting a lead in the later stages of the first quarter after a pair of turnovers gave the Phoenix excellent field position at the Maine 16-yard line.
On the next play, Christiansen would connect on a pass to Joyner for the 16-yard score.
Maine would be held off the scoreboard in the first quarter despite revering an Elon fumble at the Elon 20-yard line.
Elon would add to their lead midway through the second quarter, when another Black Bear turnover would lead to a 42-yard Phoenix field goal to increase their lead to 10-0.
The Phoenix would make it 17-0 on the very next drive, marching 54 yards on seven plays, culminating in another Joyner touchdown.
Elon would take that lead into the half.
“We had our minds set early in the day that we wanted to have a shutout. For half the football game we did that,” Williams said. “We’re excited in a way that we know we are capable of.”
Maine came alive in the second half, scoring their first points of the day on a 28-yard field goal by second-year kicker Sam Lenson, cutting the Elon lead to 14 points.
After a few three-and-outs, Collins would connect with Wright in double coverage. After the catch, Wright was able to outrun the Elon defenders and score on the 60-yard play to make the score 17-10 in favor of the Phoenix.
“Micah converted the route. They were in press coverage, I saw them and Micah made the catch and a great run after the catch,” Collins said on the scoring play.
The “Black Hole Defense” made a big play on the next drive, as fourth-year linebacker Randy Samuels intercepted Christiansen at the Elon 40-yard line.
After three passes to Wright, Collins found third-year receiver Jordan Dunn in the back of the end zone for the score.
Lenson would miss the extra point, leaving the Black Bears down 17-16, which seemed to kill all of Maine’s momentum.
“A missed extra point is a missed extra point, it’s one of the many things that happened during the game that ended up contributing to the loss,” Maine Head Coach Jack Cosgrove said.
One of the other contributing factors was Maine’s inability to stop the run on the next drive, as Summers ran for 53 yards as a part of an eight-play, 66-yard scoring drive. Summers capped it off by running one in from 13 yards out.
Elon would put the game out of reach when they were able to force a turnover on downs late in the fourth quarter, and ended up kicking a 33-yard field goal to extend their lead to 27-16.
Maine would get the ball back with under a minute to play. Collin led Maine down the field and scored a touchdown on a 7-yard pass to Wright as time expired, leaving Maine five points short.
“Obviously we didn’t play well in the first half and got behind, played a game of catch-up. We had opportunities in the first half and didn’t take advantage of it,” Cosgrove said. “The second half we played much better, gave ourselves the opportunity to tie the game, we didn’t do that and they finished us off.”
Cosgrove did credit the Phoenix on a well played game under the circumstances that the team had been under just three days before kickoff.
“Great effort by Elon. An emotional game and an emotional week for them, and they earned a great victory for themselves today,” Cosgrove said. “It was maybe the best gift they could have gotten, was coming up here together, being together and earning a win.”
There was a group prayer held at midfield after the game, and both teams participated in this unplanned display of support.
“It really wasn’t choreographed, it just kind of happened. It was just two teams getting together and showing support for our loss,” Skrosky said.
For 18 Black Bears, this game was emotional in a different way, as it was their last home game in a Maine uniform.
“It was very emotional, but at the time I wasn’t really thinking about it. I just wanted to win,” fourth-year linebacker John McCabe said. “It’s really tough to have this sort of a season but in a few days it will soak in. It’s going to really suck, but I just want to get a win for my brothers, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
After the game, Maine falls to 3-7 (3-4 CAA) while Elon improves to 4-6 (3-4 CAA).
Maine will play its last game of the season in their annual rivalry game versus the University of New Hampshire on Nov. 21. The battle for the Brice-Cowell musket kicks off at 1 p.m.