ELON, N.C. -- The Furman Paladins used a potential 14-point swing mid-way through the second quarter to pull away from the Elon Phoenix on their way to a 31-17 Southern Conference football victory from Rhodes Stadium on Saturday afternoon. With the decision, Furman snapped a four-game losing streak to the Phoenix.
With Furman leading 14-7 and Elon driving halfway through the second period, the Paladins' Marcus McMorris recovered a fumble at the five-yard line and returned it 95 yards to build a 21-7 Furman lead with 7:48 to play in the half. It proved to be a key turning point in the game.
Aaron Mellette continued his impressive senior campaign, catching 14 balls for 194 yards and two touchdowns. He now has at least two touchdowns in six consecutive games. Mellette also continued his climb up the Southern Conference career receiving charts as he is second in league history with 20 100-yard games and second in receiving yards with 3,864 (surpassing The Citadel's Andre Roberts' total of 3,743).
Quarterback Thomas Wilson surpassed Burgin Beale for second-place on Elon's all-time passing chart. Wilson threw for 283 yards and two scores to move his career yardage total to 5,776. Beale passed for 5,611 yards from 1965-68.
"Let's first start off and give Furman credit," said Elon head coach Jason Swepson. "They came in here determined to win the football game and that's what happened. We didn't stop the run all day. On offense, we had a critical turnover that really hurt our chances. It was a 14-7 game and that made it 21-7 and we just couldn't recover. It was just disappointing. We're up and down. That's got to change for us to have a chance. We have 10 seniors that deserve to go out winners and let's see if we can put three together."
After forcing the Phoenix (3-5, 1-4 SoCon) to punt on the game's opening drive, Furman (3-6, 2-4) began its first possession at its own 30 before marching downfield for a touchdown run of one yard by Jerodis Williams to take a 7-0 lead. The drive ate up 6:06 and saw 42 of the yards come on the ground.
Elon earned prime field position following a 17-yard punt return by Jeremy Peterson that took the ball to Elon 41. The pass-happy Phoenix then took to the ground, gaining 50 yards on five runs to move to the Furman nine before Wilson lofted a pass into the back of the end zone where a leaping Mellette pulled down his 14th touchdown catch of the season and the 40th of his career. Adam Shreiner's PAT knotted the game at seven with 1:13 left in the first period.
Williams found the end zone again on the next Paladin drive, this time with a four-yard plunge, to put Furman back on top by a 14-7 score with 10:16 to go in the first half. The Paladin drive covered 75 yards in 5:57.
Kierre Brown brought the kickoff back 60 yards to the Furman 36 before Tracey Coppedge took it to the 18 with an 18-yard scamper. Elon moved the ball to the Furman seven before Shreiner hit a 24-yard field goal to close the gap to 21-10.
Leading 28-10, Furman received the kickoff to start the second half and promptly marched to the Elon four before Ray Early kicked a 22-yard field goal to make it a 31-10 game.
The Phoenix tacked on its final seven points on a two-yard slant from Wilson to Mellette in the fourth quarter. The drive moved 69 yards on just seven plays and included a 28-yard catch on the Elon sideline by Mellette who was able to tap his toe just inside the white boundary of the field.
Elon will hit the road for a 2 p.m. game at The Citadel next Saturday.
Elon Sports Information Dept.