Phoenix continues to rise in FCS national rankings

Elon's come-from-behind win against Villanova helped it leapfrog idle NC A&T to No. 7 in the STATS FCS top 25

Freshman quarterback Davis Cheek completed 24-of-35 passes for a career-high 357 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's win against Villanova (ElonPhoenix.com photo)

Elon jumped three spots to No. 7 in this week’s STATS FCS Top 25 after rallying in the fourth quarter for a 19-14 win against Villanova on Saturday in a battle of ranked Colonial Athletic Association rivals.

The win was the seventh straight and fourth this season against a ranked opponent for the Phoenix, which enhanced its FCS playoff chances by improving to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in conference play. Villanova came into the game ranked 12th.

Trailing 14-10 with 12:05 remaining, Elon took the lead on a 21-yard pass from Davis Cheek to Tre Marsh. Although kicker Owen Johnson missed the extra point, he connected on a 28-yard field goal — his second of the game — to provide the final margin.

In a statistical oddity, the Phoenix has been outscored by its opponents 193-187 this season despite its .875 winning percentage. Coach Curt Cignetti’s team lost its opener 47-13 to FBS Toledo and has won its seven games against FCS opponents by an average margin of just 4.0 points.

While Elon continued its rise up the national poll, another state team — NC A&T — dropped two spots from No. 7 to No. 9 even though it had the week off and didn’t play.

The undefeated Bulldogs (8-0) return to action this Saturday with a game against MEAC opponent Norfolk State. A win would give them the best start in school history.

North Carolina’s third ranked FCS team, Western Carolina, dropped from No. 18 to No. 24 this week after a 28-6 loss to No. 22 Furman on Saturday. The Catamounts are 6-3.

NC Central, which beat Delaware State 42-14, was among the “others receiving votes” with 26.