Behind Enemy Bylines: Elon Phoenix

The Hustler went Behind Enemy Bylines, interviewing Mason Willett, the Sports Director for Elon News Network, to preview Vanderbilt’s upcoming matchup with Elon University.


Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt football huddles in a game during the 2021 season. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Khushi Jani, Staff Writer

The Commodores started off the season strong last Saturday emerging with a 63-10 victory after facing the Rainbow Warriors in Hawaii. Despite a rocky start to the game, the Vanderbilt offense totaled 601 yards, and junior quarterback Mike Wright dominated the night with 309 total yards and 4 touchdowns. 

The win comes as Vanderbilt’s first since last October, and the offseason work the team has done with Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Joey Lynch certainly stood out. This season’s offensive game plan has been in the works since the Commodores’s loss last November at Tennessee. 

“Coach Lynch did an amazing job dialing up play calls and put us in the perfect position to have success,” Wright said. “It’s a new Vanderbilt football. Shoutout to coach Lea, he’s gotten a group of guys together and got our head on straight and it’s just a new era—a new era of Vanderbilt football.”

Vanderbilt’s next matchup is against Elon University, an FCS team who will be opening their season in Nashville. The only other meeting between the schools was on Sept. 3, 2011, when Elon faced Vanderbilt in Nashville. The game was tied 7-7 midway through the second quarter and 21-14 after a third-quarter score by Elon, but the Commodores closed the contest at 45-14 with four consecutive touchdowns.

Prior to kickoff, The Hustler went Behind Enemy Bylines and interviewed Mason Willett, the Sports Director for Elon News Network, to preview Vanderbilt’s matchup with Elon.

Vanderbilt Hustler: What can we expect from Elon’s defense to deal with the strong offense we saw from Wright and the rest of the Commodores last week?

Mason Willett: There’s going to be a lot of attention toward Wright and his ability to get out of the pocket. They’ve watched the film and seen how he rolls right, gets out of the pocket and takes off. They’re definitely going to be watching the quarterback a lot more, hawking him down and staying attentive at the line.

VH: In the last season, Elon was 4-2 on the road, and Vanderbilt was 1-6 at home (and 1-11 at home in the past two seasons combined). Do you think that these records might affect how the teams will play on Saturday? What do you expect the game dynamic to be?

MW: Elon going up against an SEC team is definitely going to be a bigger task than the games we have played before. I think Vanderbilt is a strong team, and Elon will have to gameplan this one very well.

VH: What is unique about Elon’s team this year that will enable them to find better success than last time?

MW: The quarterback situation for Elon right now with Davis Cheek gone might be a factor, but the defense has looked very locked in since training camp and all the summer practices. I think they’re ready to control the pace. Whoever the new quarterback is will be ready for the challenge and work to get the win.

VH: Who are some players to watch out for?

MW: Definitely the two quarterbacks right now, Matthew McKay and Joey Baughman. They’re both dynamic quarterbacks, and I’ve spoken to [head coach] Tony Trisciani who has high praise for both of them. Matthew is a very skilled, dual threat quarterback who understands the game and plays at his own pace. Joey can run the ball and threw for over 3,000 yards in high school his senior year. Our running back Malik Griffin is looking to have a breakout season this year. For our defense, Cole Coleman and Tre’Von Jones are two names Trisciani has said will stand out this year.

VH: Score predictions?

MW: A 35-32 Elon win.