ELON, N.C. -- Quarterback Thomas Wilson threw for a career-high five touchdowns and 378 yards to lift the Elon University football team to a 42-31 victory over the Western Carolina Catamounts on Homecoming at Rhodes Stadium. The victory was the seventh straight in the series for the Phoenix which improved to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in Southern Conference play. Western dropped to 1-7, 0-6.
Aaron Mellette continued his stellar season by catching five balls for 154 yards and matching a career-best with three touchdown receptions. Mellette now has 39 career touchdown catches, moving him into second place in league history as he moved past former Citadel wide out Andre Roberts (37). He also surpassed Marshall's Mike Barber to move into third place in conference history with 3,670 career receiving yards.
Elon kicker Adam Shreiner drilled six extra points to move past Andrew Wilcox to become Elon's career leader in PATs. Shreiner has now kicked 135 extra points in his career.
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Jonathan Spain continued to rack up the tackles, adding another 12 stops to his season total in the victory. In his last three outings Spain has made 50 tackles.
Stated head coach Jason Swepson, "We came out in the first half and we played a solid football game. We played good football for 30 minutes. We went in to halftime and there were a lot of smiles. Obviously, we didn't come out in the second half and play the way we wanted to play. We still haven't played a 60 minute football game. But it was good to get our first conference win and maybe we can get on a roll here."
The Phoenix took the opening kickoff and marched 78 yards on 11 plays that concluded when Wilson hit a slanting Mellette across the middle who then raced around the Catamount defense for a 31-yard touchdown.
After forcing a Western Carolina punt, Wilson dropped back on second down and lofted a deep pass down the middle for Chris Harris who out-ran the Catamount defense for a 75-yard touchdown as the maroon and gold built a 14-0 lead just over halfway through the first quarter. The Phoenix took advantage of getting the ball near midfield following a Catamount fumble to add to its lead when Tracey Coppedge took it 48 yards on the first play of the drive for the score.
Following a Miles Williams interception on the first play of the second quarter, Elon marched 71 yards on just eight plays to grab a 28-0 lead when Wilson went deep to Mellette for a 48-yard TD strike with 10:24 left in the period.
Western Carolina got on the board thanks to a Michael Johnson seven-yard run that capped a 50-yard drive that made it a 28-7 contest with 4:03 left in the first half. But the Phoenix came right back and grabbed a 35-7 lead when Wilson tossed his fourth touchdown pass of the day, this one a 55-yarder to Kierre Brown.
Elon carried a 35-13 lead into halftime before Western Carolina scored the first 10 points of the second half to close within 12 at 35-23. The Catamounts booted a 27-yard field goal on the first possession of the half and then forced a Phoenix fumble and returned it to the eight before Johnson scored his second touchdown of the day.
The Phoenix then put the game away when Wilson found Mellette at the Catamounts' 40-yard line. The big receiver then made four defenders miss on his way to a 47-yard touchdown.
WCU tacked on its final eight points with 9:11 left in the game when Spearman Robinson hauled in a 47-yard pass from Troy Mitchell. Johnson then ran it in to convert the two-point try.
Elon will be back in action at Rhodes Stadium next Saturday at 3 p.m. when it hosts the Furman Paladins.