Flip a coin. Try to get 8 heads in a row. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Still waiting. You should expect to flip that coin 768 times before you get 8 heads in a row. That’s what Elon football did this year.
Sandwiched between a blitzing by MAC West leading Toledo 47-13 in the season opener and a 16-6 loss to New Hampshire last weekend, the Phoenix, née Fighting Christians*, reeled off 8 consecutive wins by one score or less. Elon holds the unique distinction of being outscored by their opponents 226-239 despite an 8-2 record. Elon’s incredible turnaround from last year’s 2-9 record has been fueled by an unprecedented ability to win close games.
Linebacker Coach Bryant Haines shared prior to the New Hampshire game, “Our kids are very comfortable in tight games. So is our staff.” He continued, “This is becoming standard operating procedure for us. The kids play loose and are confident. The pressure is almost non-existent when the game is coming down to the wire. That plays to our favor.”
The other factor is conditioning. “Ultimately, in the late stages of a game, schematics kind of go out the window, and the deciding factor may come down to which team is fresher and has better sustainability. We have a great strength coach that has our kids in tremendous shape, and we practice a very small amount in order to keep our guys as fresh as possible going into games. I think the low-impact practicing allows us to be the fresher team in the 4th Quarter. We don’t hurt ourselves and our kids have confidence that they’ll find a way.”
Even though the unlikely run has come to an end. The FCS playoffs could await the Phoenix. Currently ranked #15 in FCS, Elon concludes their regular season with #1 James Madison. James Madison is currently riding the longest win streak in NCAA football (22 games). An Elon win would ensure a playoff spot – a loss and the Phoenix will be watching intently on Selection Sunday. If it comes to a coin flip, the Phoenix will like their chances.
*Prior to moving to Division I in 2000 Elon was known as the Fighting Christians. Here is the story behind the nickname, https://localwiki.org/alamance/Birth_of_the_Elon_Phoenix