Week 2 of college football is in the books, and it was the week of the turnover for a great many teams in the Coastal Athletic Association and the results of the games played bared that out.
In non-conference action, North Carolina Central waged a back-and-forth battle with N. C. A&T in the first half, but settled down on defense and pulled away with two strong second half drives engineered by fifth year senior QB Davius Richard to grab a 30-16 road win before a sellout crowd of 21,400 in Greensboro.
Villanova quarterback Conner Watkins threw for a career high 310 yards and two TDS in a 42-19 romp over Colgate. The 24th-ranked Wildcats averaged a gaudy 38.8 yards on completed passes on the night.
Campbell showed no mercy on their homestanding SoCon opponent The Citadel as the Camels rolled 56-7 as senior quarterback Haji-Malik Wilson went wild, passing for 342 yards on 24-32 on his passes with 4 touchdowns.
Richmond was no match for Big-10 Michigan State as the Spartans took an easy 45-14 victory over the Spiders. Central Michigan made it an in-state sweep squeaking by New Hampshire 45-42 on a late field goal.
Defending CAA champion William and Mary continued to ground and pound their way to their second win in as many weeks with a 23-6 win over Wofford. Gardner Webb withstood a furious late Elon rally in the fourth quarter as Matthew Caldran dumped off a short pass that Ephraim Floyd turned into an 11-yard touchdown with just 14 seconds left to pull out a 34-27 win over the Phoenix in Boiling Springs.
Penn State’s offense started out a bit shaky very early on against Delaware by giving up a pick-6 in the first quarter but that would be the only bright spot for the Blue Hens all afternoon as the Nittany Lions scored literally at will from that point on in a 63-7 rout in Happy Valley.
Norfolk State turned Hampton over three times and converted all of them into touchdowns as the Spartans pulled the 31-23 road upset over the Pirates in the Battle of the Bay.
In limited conference play, Monmouth used a brutal ground game and created three turnovers to upend Towson on the road 42-23 while Rhode Island had little difficulty with Stony Brook in its 35-14 win.
Campbell at Monmouth 1:00pm FloSports/ SNY/ NBCS PHI
Delaware State at Richmond 3:30pm FloSports
Hampton at Howard 3:30pm ESPN+
William & Mary at Charleston Sou. 4:00pm ESPN+
Dartmouth at New Hampshire 6:00pm FloSports
North Carolina A&T at Elon 6:00pm FloSports/WMYV-48
Saint Francis U. at Delaware 6:00pm FloSports
Towson at Morgan State 6:00pm ESPN+
Villanova at UCF 6:30pm ESPN+
Stony Brook at Arkansas State 7:00pm ESPN+
Saturday night at Elon College will be a big boost in the arm and a redemption of sorts for the winner and of the A&T-Elon game while the team that comes out on the short end will have a lot of soul searching to do and will need to take in a very hard and long look into the mirror as it heads toward the middle third of the season.
For A&T, it was almost expected to be a rebuilding year after having undergone a somewhat unsettling coaching change in addition to a large unanticipated offseason exodus of many of the key elements of solid 7-4 squad which was just one game removed from making the FCS playoffs a year ago. The biggest disappointment has been a very slow, practically non existence of a passing game averaging just 12 passes for a laughable 33 yards per game. That has hamstrung any meaningful offensive production down to a crawl in the first two games. That has left a very young and very game but undersized defense on the field far too long against two strong opposing offenses in both of its losses.
For Elon, it may be a bit more disheartening after being ranked in the FCS top 15 teams during the preseason. While the Phoenix offense has been respectable in their two losses, it has been the defense that has performed nothing close to their 2022 standard that saw them knock off CAA kingpin William and Mary and gain a playoff spot late year. It has been the pass defense that has been the focal point of contention for them, almost of Swiss cheese quality, giving up over 300 yards passing per game.
This scenario is logically setting up for a classic breakout moment for one of these teams to establish its identity in a still early season, one for its offense and the other for its defense. Or the roles could possibly reverse themselves depending on the circumstances as the game unfolds. More than likely, it will come down to who can consistently execute its offense and control the line of scrimmage as both teams prefer to run the football first. Knowing that both defenses will be geared to the hilt to stop the run, then quarterback and receiver play becomes of the upmost importance.
We’ve already seen how the new clock rules limit the number of possessions for offenses so the short to intermediate controlled passing game along with a sound running game is now an absolute must in college football. Elon has shown, even with some inconsistency at QB, that it can go to the air enough to keep the chains moving and can hit a play or two over the top if the opportunity arises.
For A&T, the coaching staff must (1) find one of the four quarterbacks on the roster to step up and begin to make better decisions, (2) more positive plays on first downs, and (3) get the receivers into a scheme that allows for separation into open space. Until then this offense will continue to sputter playing one dimensional offensive football.
It’s asking far too much for a defense that is as incredibly young as this one to carry a team on its back until something magically materializes on offense. Right now, all those missing elements are still on the side of a milk carton somewhere in Williams Hall. Let’s hope the offensive rescue party shows up on Saturday night.
ELON – 24
N.C. A&T – 17