Despite disappointing finish, Elon earns spot in FCS playoffs

The Phoenix will play a regular season rematch against Furman in the opening round of the postseason next Saturday

First-year Elon coach Curt Cignetti has led the Phoenix to the second FCS playoff berth in school history (Courtesy Elon)

Despite losing the final two games of its regular season, including Saturday’s 31-3 rout at the hands of top-ranked James Madison, Elon has earned a berth in the FCS playoffs.

The Phoenix, 8-3 and ranked 15th nationally in this week’s STATS FCS Top 25, will take on 22nd-ranked Furman (7-4) at home on Saturday, with kickoff at 1 p.m. The game is a rematch of a game on Sept. 9 in which Elon defeated the Paladins 34-31 in Greenville, S.C.

The winner of the first-round matchup will advance to a meeting with eighth-ranked Wofford in Spartanburg, S.C. on Saturday, Dec. 1. The Terriers, No. 7 of eight seeded teams in the FCS playoff bracket, received a first-round bye.

The other seven seeded teams are No. 1 and defending champion James Madison, North Dakota State, Jacksonville State, Central Arkansas, South Dakota State, Sam Houston State and Southern Utah.

This is Elon’s second appearance in the FCS playoffs. The Phoenix lost 16-13 to Richmond in the opening round of the 2009 postseason.

Coach Curt Cignetti’s team is the only North Carolina team to be selected to the playoffs. NC A&T finished the regular season at 11-0 with its victory against rival NC Central on Saturday and is ranked seventh in this week’s national poll. But the Aggies are committed to playing in the Celebration Bowl, the unofficial HBCU national championship game.