Bears drop to 0-2 on the season with loss to Georgia Tech

Mercer's Payton Usher (25) barely catches a throw from Mercer's quarterback John Russ (7) in their game against Georgia Tech on Sept. 10.

Jenna Eason

Mercer's Payton Usher (25) barely catches a throw from Mercer's quarterback John Russ (7) in their game against Georgia Tech on Sept. 10.

Justin Baxley, Sports Editor

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Mercer’s trip up Interstate 75 did not end in a victory as it dropped its outing against in-state opponent the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 35-10. The Bears fall to 0-2 on the season while Georgia Tech remains undefeated.

For a short time in the first quarter the Bears held a touchdown lead. But the Jackets tied the game at 7-7, and from that point on the Jackets dominated the outing. Georgia Tech scored 21 unanswered points before Mercer kicked a field goal midway through the third quarter.

The Bears would fight back late as they forced a fumble with seven minutes left in the game, but it was too late to stage a comeback.

The turning point in the game was a run off a fake punt by Georgia Tech in the third quarter. The Jackets lined up to punt, but the snap went directly to one of the upbacks, who took the ball 21 yards; they capped the drive with a touchdown. Georgia Tech went up 28-10 and never looked back.

 

STARS OF THE GAME:

John Russ: The veteran quarterback started the game with an impressive drive, going 6-of-7 for 70 yards and a 32-yard touchdown to Avery Ward. He did not play as well the rest of the game as the Bears did not take many shots down the field. Russ finished with 225 yards on 24-of-38 passing. He also added 24 yards on the ground.

Tripp Patterson: The senior linebacker led the Bears in tackles and did his best to contain the triple-option attack. His nine tackles was a game high for either team.

Justin Thomas: The Georgia Tech quarterback did not play the full game as he mysteriously left the game in the second half, but the first half was an impressive showing. Thomas went 5-of-10 for 80 yards through the air and tacked on 69 yards on the ground with a touchdown. Thomas paced the offense for the Jackets, leading them in rushing during the time he was on the field.

Qua Searcy: The Jackets’ leading rusher for the game, Searcy carried the ball seven times for 91 yards. While he did not find the end zone, he was able to keep multiple drives alive with long runs. Searcy was a force all game out of the backfield.

 

STATS THAT POP

A tale of two styles:

The Yellow Jackets were paced by their rushing attack, as they went for 364 yards on the ground and just 80 through the air. The Bears had 235 yards through the air and only 85 on the ground.

Irvin’s breakout season underway:

Marquise Irvin, the sophomore wide receiver, hauled in seven catches against the Ramblin’ Wreck to pair with eight catches in Week 1 against The Citadel. Irvin had 15 catches all of last season. He has matched his total from last year in just two games and could be on his way to having a breakout season.

 

THREE TAKEAWAYS

(1) The Bears can compete with anyone

Mercer was outmatched on paper in almost every way. Very few people gave the Bears a chance to even compete in this game — including myself with a 56-13 prediction — but the Bears showed what they were made of.

This game was still in doubt for the Jackets well into the second half of the game. The Bears were not an easy win as many had predicted. They even held the lead over the Jackets at one point.

(2) John Russ has the heart of a champion

This has been a tough week for Russ as he lost his grandfather earlier this week. On Saturday, Russ came out firing and put up one of his best games of his career at Mercer.

Russ has been a constant for this team as he and center Kirby Southard have started every game since the program restarted in 2013. He is the heart of the football team and the unquestioned leader. Fans should appreciate Russ as his senior season wears on.

(3) Time to get in a routine

The Bears will not have to deal with the triple-option attack they have faced the first two weeks of the season. After The Citadel pounded the ball in Week 1 and Georgia Tech did much of the same in Week 2, the Bears get to play a “normal offense” next week.

After a Thursday night game and an FBS opponent, the Bears can now get into a real routine facing FCS teams on Saturdays. This will be a welcome sign after starting 0-2.

 

BEAR BITES

Lamb on the first drive: “I was extremely happy with our first drive. I feel like we worked all week, and we’ve got a script of eight plays, and for the most part we held to the script and John made a fabulous throw across his body.”

Lamb on the speed of Georgia Tech: “We got outflanked several times, especially right before the half. They run the same play out of the triple option on the pitch to the edge, and we just weren’t there. But I was happy with our effort.”

Lamb on the sea of orange: “I can’t say enough about our administration, our fans, our Mercer Maniacs, the band, the cheerleaders, everybody that was here. It was a sea of orange down there in that corner.”

Russ on his throw to Avery Ward: “I knew I was gonna have faith in my guy Avery. I knew something good was gonna happen. You know my grandfather passed away this week on Tuesday, so I felt like he helped me out a little bit on that play.”

Tyler Ward on the support from the crowd: “It’s unreal. It was awesome not only for what the students do but the whole town of Macon.”

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