Hampton University falls just short to No. 18 Elon in Jadakis Bonds’ final home game

It was a similar story for Hampton University on Saturday, but one the Pirates can take pride in, however sad the ending.

For the second consecutive week, the Pirates played well enough to push a ranked FCS opponent to the brink, but fell 38-24 to No. 18 Elon on Saturday in a Colonial Athletic Association game at Armstrong Stadium.

The game featured a breakthrough first half by freshman quarterback Chris Zellous, who was 7-of-8 passing for 128 yards and two touchdowns while running 10 times for 80 yards. Wide receiver Jadakis Bonds, perhaps bound for the NFL, added one more memorable catch in his last game at Armstrong.

But the Phoenix (8-3, 6-2 CAA), who likely clinched a playoff berth with the win, were too much for the Pirates (4-6, 1-6) offensively. Quarterback Matthew McKay (16 for 19, 199 yards, two touchdowns) was efficient and running back Jalen Hampton (24 carries, 178 yards, three touchdowns) was mostly unstoppable.

The close call was one of several this season for the Pirates, picked to finish 13th (last) in their first season in the CAA. A week earlier at Armstrong, No. 8 William & Mary rallied to edge the Pirates 20-14.

“We’re close, we’re right there, but we’ve got to finish,” Hampton coach Robert Prunty said. “We kept fighting.

“I just like the fight in this team.”

Zellous exemplified it, dislocating a shoulder while making a tackle after throwing an interception midway through the third quarter. Zellous said trainers popped the shoulder back in place and he’ll be fine if there’s no cartilage damage.

Prior to that, the game was in large part a duel between him and McKay. McKay went 5 for 5 for 67 yards to start the game as the Phoenix drove 75 yards to score on Jalen Hampton’s 1-yard touchdown run.

Zellous, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound redshirt freshman from Greensboro, North Carolina, followed by leading HU on a 75-yard touchdown drive. He capped it with a nice play-fake before passing to fellow Carolinian Davis Wilder for a 27-yard score.

Jalen Hampton did most of the work on the Phoenix’s next possession and gave them a 14-7 lead with a 6-yard touchdown run. Zellous responded by displaying his running prowess, with gains of 11, 18 and 14 yards to set up Axel Perez’s 36-yard field goal.

Jalen Hampton’s 42-yard burst paved the way for McKay’s 3-yard touchdown pass that put Elon ahead 21-10 with 8:48 left in the half.

Zellous’ answer? Used primarily this season to run the ball, he completed passes of 2, 25 and 35 yards, the latter for a touchdown to Bonds that pulled the Pirates to within 21-17 late in the first half.

Bonds, a 6-4, 200-pound senior with dreams of playing on Sundays, again displayed the athleticism that could make that a reality by leaping high to outfight the defender on a 50/50 ball.

“It was a bittersweet moment,” Bonds said. “To go out with a touchdown reception in the last home game of the season, the last home game of my career, is something I’ll always cherish.”

The Pirates couldn’t keep up the pace. Zellous was intercepted on the first possession of the second half by Phoenix safety Omar Rogers. McKay followed with completions of 39, 20 and 14 yards, the latter to Jackson Parham for a touchdown, and the Phoenix led 28-17.

Zellous drove the Pirates 57 yards to the Elon 18 on their next possession. But, forced to scramble, Zellous was again intercepted by Rogers, who returned the pick 71 yards. As Zellous tackled him at the Hampton 11, he dislocated the shoulder.

Elon added a short field goal after the pick to make it 31-17 late in the third quarter. Sofian Massoud passed 14 yards to Evan King to pull the Pirates to within 31-24 with 3:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Jalen Hampton clinched the victory for the Phoenix with a 7-yard touchdown run set up by his 49-yard romp down the right sideline. That left Bonds, who had five receptions for 98 yards, to reflect on his legendary career amid defeat.

“I loved playing here,” Bonds said. “I loved the intensity, the energy from the fans and the energy of the teams I’ve been on. It’s really a feeling you can’t compare.”