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Elon struggling to live up to preseason ranking

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The Elon Phoenix made the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the first time in 2009 and came into 2010 ranked seventh in the country.

Now all of a sudden, they’re 1-3 (0-1 Southern Conference) and have yet to beat a Division I program this season. They’ve lost to Duke, No. 11 Richmond and No. 19 Georgia Southern.

"We’re in the process of regrouping here, turning the page and trying to get ready for another very good team this week in Samford," said Elon coach Pete Lembo. "We’ve had two close games with them the last two years, and certainly it will be another big test this week."

Samford’s balanced offense will have now-21st-ranked Elon’s coaches scrambling to get ready defensively for the second week in a row. According to Lembo, it’s hard enough changing the defensive mindset to defend the option, but they’ve still got to change back if they want a shot at their first D-I victory.

"They’re more like us in terms of what they do offensively and defensively, so you almost have to shelf everything you did last week," Lembo said of Samford

Georgia Southern (3-1, 1-0) has a week off after its physical 38-21 win over then-No. 10 Elon, but the Phoenix have little time to recover before hosting Samford (2-2, 0-1) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

"We were in a tight game at halftime, but they really wore us down in the second half," Lembo said. "In addition, Jaybo Shaw did a really fine job running the option. He threw the ball well and I think he’s a very good decision maker, he’s very tough, he took some really vicious hits in that game and just seemed to keep coming back. Can’t say enough good things about Georgia Southern."

Neither can Furman coach Bobby Lamb, who had the opportunity to watch the game on SportSouth.

"Elon was probably favored a little bit coming in, but you’re playing in Statesboro in front of 20,000 people. Georgia Southern, while obviously they’ve been a little bit down and they’ve changed offenses, they’ve still got athletes. … Georgia Southern’s always had great athletes on the field. It’s just a matter of getting them in the right places in the early stages of his career."


Getting better?

The Citadel entered the season with a pair of true freshmen quarterbacks anchoring the Bulldogs’ switch to the triple-option offense.

Head coach Kevin Higgins liked what he saw last Saturday despite the 31-14 loss at No. 18 Furman.

"We held on to the football for 37 minutes, they had it for 23 minutes. We ran 78 plays, they ran 50. We did have five three-and-outs, but we did have some good things from on offensive standpoint," said Higgins.

So what was missing from the effort?

"Right now we need to cut down on turnovers and get points upon the board," he said.

The Bulldogs (2-2, 0-1) faces Western Carolina (1-3, 0-1) Saturday at 1 p.m.


: No. 18 Furman (2-1, 1-0) faces Wofford (2-1, 0-0) on the road Saturday at 1:30 p.m. … No. 19 GSU, No. 2 Appalachian State (4-0, 2-0) and Chattanooga (2-2, 1-1) are all idle on Saturday.


Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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