DURHAM — Elon head coach Tony Trisciani certainly wasn’t afforded the comforts of home Saturday.
Trisciani, a Manchester native and a former assistant coach at the University of New Hampshire, watched his team turn the ball over five times and surrender six sacks during a 26-10 loss to UNH during Homecoming weekend in Durham.
Elon quarterback Davis Cheek was intercepted four times — three times in the first half — and two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns. Inside linebacker Oleh Manzyk scored on a 55-yard interception return that helped the Wildcats build a 13-3 lead in the first quarter, and Evan Horn picked off a Cheek pass and ran it back 50 yards for a TD with 4:52 left in the first half. Jason Hughes’ point-after kick following Horn’s TD handed the Wildcats a 20-10 lead.
“At the end of the day I think our guys played hard, but we just couldn’t overcome the turnovers,” Trisciani said. “It’s tough to win here, never mind when you have the turnovers.”
Cheek had thrown 240 passes without an interception until he was picked off on his final pass of last weekend’s loss to James Madison. UNH (3-2, 2-0 CAA) intercepted three of his first 15 passes Saturday. Pop Lacey and Isiah Perkins had the other UNH interceptions.
Davis completed 17 of 31 passes for 184 yards in the loss.
“It’s poor decisions,” Cheek said. “It’s understanding when to drive the ball versus when to hang it up, and it’s young-guy mistakes, not older-guy mistakes. Gotta clean it up.”
UNH received two field goals from Jason Hughes (42 and 45 yards) and a 6-yard touchdown pass from Max Brosmer to Nick Lorden that put the Wildcats in front 13-3 with 6:38 remaining in the first quarter.
Brosmer completed 15 of 25 passes for 135 yards, but was intercepted three times. He suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by Bret Edwards with 3:23 left in the third quarter. Edwards spent most of his day handing off, but completed 2 of 3 passes for 12 yards.
“(Brosmer) hurt his ankle and he was banged up a little bit from last game,” UNH coach Ricky Santos said. “We felt like depending on the flow of the game we wanted to get Brett in there a little bit as well, so it kind of timed up perfectly for that.”
In addition to his interception, Manzyk had three sacks. Defensive end Gunner Gibson had two-and-a-half sacks, and Josh Kania was credited with half a sack.
Cornerback Greg Liggs had all three of Elon’s interceptions. The Phoenix (2-4, 1-2 CAA) scored on a 34-yard field goal by Skyler Davis and a 13-yard run by running back Jaylan Thomas. UNH led 20-10 at halftime and added two fourth-quarter field goals.
The Wildcats finished the game without wide receiver Malik Love (back) and tight end Justine Malone-Woods (ankle).
“I don’t know much about Justin right now,” Santos said. “I know Malik is pretty sore. He was having back spasms.”
UNH limited Elon to 267 yards of offense, including 80 yards on 37 running plays (2.2 per carry). The Wildcats came away with more turnovers Saturday than they did in their first three games combined (three).
“I thought our defense did a tremendous job putting a really good quarterback under duress all night,” Santos said. “Anytime you can score a touchdown on the defensive side of the ball, let alone two, you give your team a great chance to win. We’re building a ton of momentum to continue into league play.”