Knocking off No. 21 Georgia Southern 36-33 in double overtime Saturday was far more than just a regular-season conference win for the Phoenix.
In fact, Elon’s players considered the home victory the biggest for their program, which hasn’t had things easy since joining the league in 2003. The Phoenix, who were 5-24 against conference teams their first four years in the Southern Conference, are now off to their first 2-1 start in league play.
“I feel like (the win) should wake up people in the SoCon,” said linebacker Corey Weaver, who had a game-high 16 tackles. “They should know that Elon is a force to be reckoned with. This is a big win for our school.”
Elon coach Pete Lembo, who took over the struggling program prior to last season, said the Phoenix thought they were a good team but needed a win over one of the SoCon’s traditional powers for assurance. Is the team ahead of where he thought it would be right now?
“I’ll let people make their own determination of that,” Lembo said. “We still have a long way to go. I think we can get a lot better, and we still have some pieces of the puzzle to put together here. We’re far from at the end, but I would say, you get a win like this and you feel like maybe it’s the end of the beginning.”
Stopping the Eagles
Though the Eagles (4-2, 1-2) finished with 415 total yards, GSU coach Chris Hatcher felt the Phoenix stymied the Eagles’ offense the entire game. Quarterback Jayson Foster wasn’t able to run freely as he did earlier this season and finished with 112 rushing yards and one touchdown on 30 carries. He was 5-for-14 on passing for 55 yards.
Running back Lamar Lewis ran for 103 yards and one score while Mike Hamilton and Chris Teal combined for 144 rushing yards. Even with the Eagles’ running backs banged up, Lembo said the Phoenix were as concerned with them as they were with Foster.
“We tried to make them pull it on the zone read and have at least one, if not two defenders assigned to scrape the quarterback,” Lembo said. “That happened to be Corey Weaver a number of times and Cam McGlenn.”
The Phoenix (4-2, 2-1) also mixed in some pressure, particularly early in the game.
“I think we caught them a little bit off balance with that,” Lembo said. “There were a couple of times when Jayson dropped the snap or maybe got a little anxious with his read because that pressure was coming in the backfield.”
The final kick
Foster, who serves as the holder, said the snap on Jesse Hartley’s final field goal attempt was clean, and he wasn’t sure why the kick was so low. Elon’s Andrew Wilcox hit what stood as the game-winning field goal in the second overtime before Hartley’s 39-yard try was short.
“It was a good snap, and hopefully I held it right,” Foster said. “I tried to get it down and let him do his job. It just fell a little short, and that’s pretty much all I can say. It felt like he hit it good. It looked like he had a clean stride.”
The road only gets harder for the Eagles, who face two-time defending national champion Appalachian State in Boone, N.C., Saturday. The fifth-ranked Mountaineers shocked the country with their season-opening win at then-No. 5 Michigan, and a loss to Wofford is the only blemish on their 5-1 (1-1 SoCon) record.
ASU was off last week.
“We’ve got a lot of tough games coming up ahead of us,” Foster said. “I think that we’ve got a talented team and can go out and win the rest of the games we play.”
GSU is 3-8-1 all time in Boone and has won just twice at Kidd Brewer Stadium where the Mountaineers have won 30 straight — the nation’s longest Division I home winning streak.
The Eagles’ most recent win at Appalachian was a 27-18 victory in 2001. Last year, ASU needed two overtimes to beat in the Eagles 27-20 in Statesboro. Kevin Richardson’s 3-yard run stood as the game-winner.