We don’t know what’s more shocking: the way the W&M game ended last week, or the fact that we just wrote that Elon is the 18th-ranked team in the country. As most know by now, W&M suffered a heartbreaking last-second loss last weekend. Despite being down 0-21, the Tribe battled all the way back (almost), driving into field goal range with 8 seconds to go, down just 18-21. However, a false start penalty resulted in a 10-second runoff, ending the comeback bid for the Green and Gold. This week, W&M looks to get back on track as the Tribe turns to the Elon Phoenix, a team coming off three straight wins over ranked teams, including a then-#6 ranked Richmond. The Tribe will certainly have its hands full in this one.
Elon has been the surprise story of the CAA so far this year, much like Albany last year. After a close 19-17 win over #16-ranked Charleston Southern, some wondered whether Elon winning that game was a fluke. But then the Phoenix reeled off two more wins, first over #6 Richmond and then against #19 Albany. Wow. The Phoenix are now undefeated in the CAA at 2-0, already surpassing their CAA win total from last season (by the way, their lone CAA win last year came against the Tribe…too soon…it still stings).
Five games into the season, the Phoenix have shown they can win in several ways. They can lean on their offense, as evidenced by high-scoring affairs against Furman (34-31) and Richmond (36-33). They can also win a game with their defense, as they did last week, defeating the Albany Great Danes by a score of 6-0. How’s that for an old school, defense-heavy football score? Refreshing, isn’t it?
Suffice to say, Elon has become a formidable force in the CAA this year. On the road, the Phoenix will pose a tough test for a young W&M team. Even still, they are beatable, and we are excited to see how our Green and Gold matches up on Saturday.
- Junior RB (#30) Malcolm Summers: Are you scared? You should be. Just reading his name should evoke fear. I mean are you kidding me… he rushed 40 times for 294 yards against Richmond, outright shattering records in the process. Richmond knew what was going to happen. Elon knew what was going to happen. Everybody knew what was going to happen. The Phoenix kept feeding Summers the ball, and the Spiders could not stop him. He is an absolute beast, and ranks first in the CAA in total rushing yards (674 yards), third in average per rush (5.8), and second in rushing yards per game (134.8). Oh yeah, and in his last three games, here is Summers’ stat line: 30 rushes, 178 yards, 1 TD (vs. Charleston Southern); 40 rushes, 294 yards (vs. Richmond); 39 rushes, 179 yards (vs. Albany). In CAA play, he is averaging 40 rushes, 236.5 yards, and a 5.98 yards per rush per game. Summer may be over, but Summers is coming; it’s no secret what Elon wants to do on offense. Will W&M’s front-7 be up to the task?
- Junior LB (#3) Warren Messer: Messer is a linebacker that will look to wreak havoc on Tribe running backs this Saturday. He currently leads the CAA with 60 tackles through 5 games. Averaging 12 tackles per game, Messer also has a sack, an interception, and 2.5 TFLs to his name so far. He will be all over the field on Saturday, looking to make plays and shut down the Tribe run game — and heck, the passing game too. Wherever the ball goes, expect to see #3 there with it.
- Junior DB (#27) Tyler Campbell: Much like Messer and Summers, Campbell also leads the CAA in a certain statistic: interceptions. Campbell is a ball-hawking DB that currently has 3 interceptions on the year in just 5 games. To go with that, he has also racked up 37 tackles, a sack, and 2 TFLs. Campbell will look to add another interception to his resume against W&M’s Tommy McKee this Saturday.
W&M Keys To Victory
- Stop Malcolm Summers: Typically, this would be stop the run. But there is only one player getting the ball on the ground this Saturday, and that would be Mr. Summers. He IS the Elon offense. If you stop him, Elon doesn’t have much of chance to make an impact on offense. Essentially, if the Tribe can do what almost no team has done this year, then it will win this game. Stack the box, force the Elon QB to throw, and let our ball-hawking secondary come up with a couple interceptions. But it all starts with stopping the unstoppable force that is Malcolm Summers. The W&M front-7 may have its hardest test of the year stopping the run, and yes, we’re including UVA. Luckily for Tribe fans, W&M has been much better against the run this year. After giving up an average of more than 200 yards per game on the ground last season, W&M currently ranks 5th in the CAA, giving up just 104 yards per game on the ground. By now, we probably sound like a broken record, but if W&M wants to win this game, there is a simple formula: Stop Summers.
- Run, Run, and Run some more: Get this, while Elon may boast one of the top rushing attacks in the CAA, they are also one of the worst in the league in stopping it. Elon ranks 11th in the CAA in rushing defense, giving up an average of 175 yards per game on the ground. Despite the Tribe still being without Albert Funderburke (ACL recovery), the Tribe has true freshman Nate Evans. We love Evans. Standing at just 5’9″, Evans doesn’t look like an intimidating figure at first glance. But suit him up, and boy will you be mistaken. Evans has rushed for 197 yards in the two games he has started, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, and scoring a TD in each contest. And as we found out last week, he can also catch the ball. He is a quick and shifty back, and we hope that the Green and tote him early and often on Saturday. In addition to Evans, the aforementioned Albert Funderburke may return on Saturday. There have been rumors of Funderburke’s potential return to W&M, and we’ll see if that actually happens. He was suited up on the sideline last Saturday, and if he can return to play in any form, that will bolster the Tribe offense that much more.
Time: Saturday, 2:00 PM
Location: Rhodes Stadium (Elon, North Carolina)
Watch: Streaming on Tribe TV (click here!)
W&M Sports Blog Prediction
Tribe 17, Elon 16
REVENGE! After last season’s upset loss at the hands of Elon at home, we expect the Tribe to return the favor on Saturday — this time, on their home turf. But let’s not forget, the Tribe could easily be 3-1 right now. If not for last week’s 10-second run off, the game against Stony Brook would have gone to OT. And with W&M garnering all the momentum, we’d be so bold as to say that the Green and Gold would have pulled that one out. And if that had happened, the Tribe would be ranked this week. With that in mind, we see W&M getting past Elon this week. The Phoenix are a good team, don’t get me wrong. But all W&M has to do is stop Malcolm Summers (easier said than done, but doable). To get the job done, we believe 38-year veteran Jimmye Laycock will have a solid game plan this Saturday. On top of that, Elon’s defense ranks 11th (out of 12) in total defense, 9th in pass defense, and 11th in rush defense. As such, we expect the W&M offense to squeak out enough points in this one to win it. Do you believe? LET’S GO TRIBE!!!