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Elon lands Top-25 ranking after win over No. 6 Richmond

The 36-33 win over the University of Richmond on Saturday, Sept. 23, pushes the Phoenix's winning streak to three games and its record on the season to 3-1. 

Elon running back Malcolm Summers carried the ball 40 times for 294 yards in the victory over the University of Richmond. 

For the second time this season, the Elon University football team downed a Top-25 foe, this time upending sixth-rated University of Richmond in a 36-33 victory on Saturday, Sept. 23. 

For a second straight week, running back Malcolm Summers did the heavy lifting on offense as he carried the ball 40 times for 294 yards on the game, which was the Colonial Athletic Association Football opener for both squads. The win, Elon's first in eight tries against Richmond, ran the Phoenix's winning streak to three games, its longest since 2011, and improved the squad to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in league play. The Spiders fell to 2-2, 0-1.

"Great team victory. Our guys would not be denied in the fourth quarter," said head coach Curt Cignetti after the game. "It's a great win for the guys. I feel really great for them, and I'm proud of them and the coaches, too. We'll enjoy it tonight and get ready for the next one tomorrow."

Elon returned to the national rankings on Monday, with the Phoenix checking in at No. 23 in this week's STATS FCS poll. In another national ranking, the FCS Coaches Poll, Elon earned 27 points and received the second-most points of those teams just outside the Top 25. 

Elon returns to Rhodes Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 30, for a 2 p.m. bout with league member The University at Albany.

At Richmond, Elon built a 19-7 lead in the first half after a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Davis Cheek to wide receiver Tre Marsh and a pair of Owen Johnson field goals. Richmond would cut the Phoenix lead to 19-14 with 1:04 left in the second quarter when Dejon Brissett hauled in a 47-yard pass from Kyle Lauletta.

The Spiders came out hot in the second half, scoring 10 points on their first two possessions of the half to take a 23-19 edge. From there, it was a back-and-forth affair.

Elon drove 57 yards on four plays, including a 45-yard run from Summers on the second play of the drive, to regain the lead, 26-23, on a one-yard plunge by running back Brelynd Cyphers. On the next possession, Richmond drove 54 yards to tie the game on a Griffin Trau 34-yard field goal with just over 2:30 left in the third quarter.

After the Phoenix went three-and-out, the Spiders began a drive at its 30-yard line. On third-and-eight at their 32, Lauletta hit Brissett for 13 yards. A 17-yard completion from Lauletta to Garrett Hudson moved the chains again on third down. Two plays later, Tyler Wilkins ran it in from 32 yards out to make it a 33-26 Spider lead.

Elon again answered, driving 63 yards on eight plays to even it at 33. The drive began at the Elon 37 before Cheek hit Kortez Weeks for 13 yards to midfield. Summers toted the ball for 10 yards on the next play before the Phoenix converted a third-and-five with a 23-yard pass to Tre Lennon. On second-and-10 from the Richmond 12, Cheek faked a pitch to Summers and the Spider defense bit, leaving Matt Foster open in the end zone for the tying score.

On the third play of the next drive, Dondre Howell tipped a ball in the air and Warren Messer picked off the pass to give the ball back to the Phoenix at the Richmond 22. Elon would turn that into three points when Johnson drilled a 32-yarder to give the maroon and gold the lead for good.

The Spiders mounted one final push, driving to the Elon 26-yard line. On third-and-one, Messer and Chris Blair combined to stop the run for no gain. Richmond lined up for the fourth-down try and was again denied as the running back slipped in the backfield for a loss of two yards, giving the ball back to Elon with 3:43 left to play.

After picking up a first down following three Summers runs, the junior workhorse broke off a 41-yard dash. One more first down by the Phoenix sealed the game as Elon took two knees to end it.

"That's what we talked about at halftime, our relentlessness and resiliency, our mental toughness and fortitude," Cignetti said. "We lost the lead. We were down seven and our guys stepped it up a notch and we made the plays at the end of the game we had to make.

With Richmond ranked sixth, the win matched the highest-rated opponent that Elon has defeated at the NCAA FCS level. Elon topped sixth-ranked Wofford College in 2007. It's the second time that Elon has won back-to-back games against Top-25 opponents. In 2008 Elon notched wins over No. 15 Furman and No. 21 The Citadel. 

Owen Covington,
Staff
9/24/2017 10:55 AM