The key takeaways from Campbell football's home-opening loss to Elon over the weekend.
BUIES CREEK — Elon rallied from a double-digit deficit in the third quarter to spoil Campbell's home opener, taking a 24-23 win Saturday at Barker-Lane Stadium.
A late Camels (0-2) touchdown pulled them to within a point, but instead of kicking the extra point, a failed two-point conversion run from Hajj-Malik Williams sealed the group's second loss to open the season.
Here are the key takeaways from an action-packed four quarters.
With an attendance that topped 5,000, Campbell fans created what coach Mike Minter called an "electric atmosphere" during their return to Barker-Lane Stadium following a 655-day hiatus due to COVID-19 protocols.
Tailgating in the parking lot. Making the walk through 'Camels Crossing' tunnel. Singing the fight song. Fans were back to doing fan things Saturday, creating the quintessential college football environment.
The venue was consumed with orange and black faithful– cheering and chanting every twist and turn for what was a thrilling non-conference tilt against a nearby in-state foe.
Campbell wideout Caleb Snead got the crowd on its feet with two gravity-defying touchdown receptions.
The first came during the late stages of the opening quarter when Snead put a jolt in the listless offense by snatching a 9-yard fade away from the Elon defender and tying things at 7.
Snead showed off his big-play ability again with the Camels trailing by a touchdown and just over a minute left in regulation. The 6-foot-4 senior came down with a leaping grab and turned it into a 48-yard score to bring CU within one point, 24-23.
On the postgame Zoom call, Minter said that though he was pleased with Snead's production, being targeted only four times throughout the contest wasn't nearly enough.
Snead, who accounted for the Camels' only touchdown in last week's loss to Liberty, agreed with Minter's assessment.
But he also lobbied for more opportunities for his receiving corp that includes the likes of Jai Williams, who had a 28-yard touchdown reception to give Campbell its biggest lead with 9:57 left in the third.
Snead says if junior quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams (completed 11-of-23 passes for 152 yards and three scores) can spread the ball around, it will in turn open up more targets and opportunities for himself.
A dominating all-around performance from Elon in the first half saw them outgain Campbell 220-54.
But the Camels led at the break, thanks in part to a blocked punt and field goal.
Trailing 7-0 in the first, the momentum quickly tilted in Campbell's favor when Reece Moulton blocked Jeff Yurk’s punt to set up the Camels with a first down on the Elon 14-yard line, eventually leading to Snead's first TD reception.
Isaac Riffle’s 40-yard field goal pushed the Camels ahead, 10-7, with 40 seconds left in the second quarter. Elon responded by driving into CU territory, but a 55-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Josh Johnson as time expired.
Both of Campbell's starting safeties, Darion Slade and Dorian Jones, missed the contest due to injuries sustained in the season opener. Their status for this weekend is undetermined.
Davis Cheek completed 22-of-37 passes for 269 yards and two scores, while Elon tallied 382 total yards to just 282 Campbell yards.
The Camels suffered two costly turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Tre’Von Jones intercepted Williams’ pass to set up a 4-yard touchdown run that put the Phoenix in front, 21-17 – their first lead since early in the game. On Campbell’s next possession, Nick Veloz stripped the ball from Camels running back Lamagea McDowell and Jones recovered. Elon took advantage with Skyler Davis’ 47-yard field goal.
For the second straight week, Keshawn Thompson led CU in total tackles– finishing with nine.
Campbell returns home Saturday, Sept. 18 against Presbyterian.
Donnell Coley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-230-2040.