Courtesy of Elon Athletics
- Playing inspired football on Homecoming, the Elon Phoenix erased a 21-0 second-half deficit against the ninth-ranked Wofford Terriers with three Scott Riddle touchdown passes and tenacious defense only to see its efforts fall just short as Wofford scored on a 41-yard touchdown pass with just nine seconds to play. The 28-21 defeat left the Phoenix with a 2-5 overall record and a 1-3 mark in the competitive Southern Conference. The Terriers won their sixth-straight game to move to 6-1, 4-0. The road team has now won five consecutive outings in this series.
“I think when you have a game like this, it’s never that last play,” said Elon head coach Pete Lembo. “That’s the one that people will talk about and write about, but the bottom line is that there were six or seven plays over the course of the game that made the difference.”
After missing a field goal to end the second quarter, Wofford received the opening kickoff of the second stanza that was promptly returned for an 84-yard touchdown by Mike Rucker as the Terriers built a 21-0 lead. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown for Wofford since 2007 and the first allowed by Elon since 2008.
On the ensuing possession, Elon gained a first down at its own 41 after a second-down run by A.J. Harris. Riddle then hit Sean Jeffcoat for nine yards to the 50 before connecting with Lance Camp for a 19-yard pick-up. On the play, Wofford was flagged for a facemask that moved the ball to the Terriers’ 16-yard line. On the next play, Riddle lofted a pass to Aaron Mellette in the back of the right side of the end zone for the TD as Elon quickly closed its deficit to 21-7.
The Phoenix defense held on Wofford's next two possessions and Elon received excellent field possession after Terell Wilson returned the ball 31 yards to the Wofford 35 with just over four minutes to play in the third quarter. On third-and-seven from the 32, Riddle rolled out to his left and, with a Terrier defender closing, drilled a pass to Camp for a completion of 15 yards to the 17. Two plays later, Harris rushed for 11 yards to give the Phoenix a first and goal from the six. Following an incompletion, Harris found an opening in the Wofford defense and Riddle found the back for a six-yard touchdown to pull the Phoenix within a touchdown at 21-14.
Again, a strong defensive effort put the Phoenix offense back on the field and Elon looked like it would have to punt. Facing a fourth-and-nine from its own 49, Elon lined up to punt, but Riddle took off after receiving the snap and gained 10 yards for a first down at the Wofford 41. On the next play, Harris gained another nine yards on the ground before he picked up another eight on third-and-one. Riddle then sent a pass into the back left corner of the end zone where Jeffcoat made an acrobatic grab for the 24-yard touchdown as the Phoenix erased its earlier 21-point deficit to knot the game at 21.
On their next possession, the Terriers faced a fourth-and-two from its own 45 Eric Breitenstein plunged ahead for a three-yard gain and a first down. But the very next play saw Breitenstein stripped of the ball by the Phoenix’s Brandon Ward and the fumble was recovered by Elon’s Brandon Wiggins at the Elon 49.
The Phoenix converted a third-and-three with a 12-yard completion to Jeffcoat that moved the ball to the Wofford 33. Elon advanced to the Wofford 22 before Riddle completed another pass to Jeffcoat who lunged for the end zone, but was ruled to have fumbled the ball just prior to crossing the goal line. The ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback that gave Wofford the ball at its own 20-yard line.
With the score still tied at 21 Elon took possession at its own 17 after the seventh Terrier punt of the afternoon and 3:22 left in the fourth quarter. Harris picked up two yards on first down before Camp rushed for another yard on second down. Riddle then completed a pass to Camp for a five-yard gain on third-and-seven and the Phoenix was forced to punt. Riddle’s punt went only 13 yards and Wofford took over at the Elon 49 with 1:10 showing on the clock.
The Terriers started the drive with back-to-back six-yard rushes from Rucker and Breitenstein before a false start penalty moved the ball to the 42. On third-and-14 with time running down, Allen dropped back and floated a pass down the middle of the field toward Devin Reed. Two Elon defenders closed on the receiver, but Reed managed to snare the ball and fall into the end zone with only nine seconds to play. Christian Reed’s PAT gave Wofford the 28-21 lead.
Elon’s only hope was to complete a pass and continue to lateral the ball, but the fifth pitch of the series fell to the ground and the game came to a heart-breaking close for the Phoenix.
After the teams traded a couple of punts to open the contest, Wofford’s Mike McCrimon picked off a Riddle pass at midfield and returned it to the Elon 33. A penalty on Elon during the return set the Terriers up at the 18-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Breitenstein rushed up the middle for the first score of the game as Wofford took a 7-0 lead with just over 6:30 to play in the first quarter.
Following an Elon punt, Wofford took over from its own three-yard line and marched 97 yards on 12 plays to increase its advantage to 14-0 early in the second quarter. Breitenstein accounted for 48 yards on the drive, including a TD run of 18 yards to cap the possession. The Phoenix had chances to stop the drive, but Wofford converted on three third down opportunities.
Defensively, Elon held Wofford to its second-lowest rushing total of the season at 246 yards. The Terriers triple-option rushing attack was limited to 81 second-half yards.
“In a lot of ways the guys are playing good football,” added Lembo. “And in some ways, playing better football than earlier in the season. We haven’t been able to get over the hump in some of these close games against good opponents. It’s frustrating for all of us. But you just have to keep plugging along and stick together.”
Riddle continued to add to his SoCon-record passing numbers, completing 28 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. The Phoenix was held without a 100-yard receiver for the first time this season. Jeffcoat finished with eight catches for 76 yards and a score while Camp hauled in seven passes for 57 yards. Elon’s rushing game was led by Harris’ 13 carries for 50 yards.
Wofford’s Breitenstein carried the load for the Terrier offense, rushing 31 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Reed recorded both of the team’s completions for a 51-yard total.
For the second-straight week Elon’s Ward tallied 13 stops, a career-best. Ward also had a sack and forced a fumble. Wiggins finished the afternoon with 12 total stops while Travis Greene (11 tackles) and Joshua Jones (10 tackles) both had double-digit takedown performances.
Mike Niam’s 13 tackles led Wofford. Ameet Pall totaled just four stops, but two were sacks.
Elon will hit the road for a 2 p.m. kickoff at Chattanooga next Saturday while Wofford will play host to The Citadel at 1:30 p.m. the same day.