The Mercer Bears notched their first win of the season with a victory over Tennessee Tech 34-27 . The Bears improve to 1-2 on the season heading into the bye week. Tennessee Tech falls to 1-2 on the season following the loss.
The game did not start well for the Bears as Dontez Byrd returned the opening kickoff 100 yards. The Bears would answer with a field goal by Cole Fisher and take the lead late in first half on a John Russ touchdown.
The Bears trailed heading into the half down 14-10 as Tennessee Tech scored with less than a minute left in the half.
The second half started slow for the Bears as they fell behind 21-10 before coming back to take the lead on back to back touchdown tosses from Russ to tight end Sam Walker.
The game took a massive swing when the officials called an incomplete pass a catch and fumble after the ball hit Walker in his back. Tennessee Tech recovered the called fumble and returned it for a touchdown. They took the lead 27-24. The Bears would not allow another score.
Russ notched his second rushing touchdown of the game and Fisher hit a school record 49 yard field goal to put the game out of reach. Zach Jackson stripped the The Golden Eagles quarterback Micha Birdsong to stop the Golden Eagles on their last drive.
STARS OF THE GAME:
Zach Jackson: If the Bears are going to win a football game then you can bet that Zach Jackson will have his fingerprints all over it. Jackson has been the key factor in the Bears last three wins dating back to last season. His interceptions against Chattanooga and Furman sealed victories last season for the Bears. He continued the trend on Saturday as he forced the fumble that sealed the game.
Sam Walker: The Bears rely heavily on their tight ends to make plays and, against the Golden Eagles, none came up bigger than Walker. Walker had a couple touchdown grabs that put the Bears on top in the third quarter. For one of those, Walker jumped above multiple defenders to bring down the ball.
John Russ: It feels like Russ is a star of the game every week. In this edition he just threw for 259 yards on 23 completions with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Russ also found the endzone twice with his legs. He now has six career games with two rushing touchdowns. He has already has two such games this season.
STATS THAT POP:
The Bears won the turnover battle 4-1 but,really, if not for the phantom fumble call, the Bears would have finished with no turnovers. The Bears forced three fumbles and had one interception. The Bears have a +3 turnover margin on the season and, if not for the missed call, would have gone back to back games without one.
Kicking into the record book:
Cole Fisher drilled a 49 yard field goal, a new school record, to extend the Bears lead in the fourth quarter. Fisher also hit a 42 yard field goal earlier in the game. The Bears kicker is now six for seven on the season and is perfect from beyond 40 yards as he has nailed 3 from that distance. His only miss was a block against Georgia Tech.
(1) Finding a way to close games
Since joining the Southern Conference, the Bears have been haunted by close losses both in and out of conference. Last season, the Bears dropped a close game to this same Tennessee Tech team. This year they would not be denied. The Bears found a way to finish the drill despite there being some adversity throughout the game. The Bears overcame the odds to win this game and hopefully have turned a corner in these close games.
(2) Spreading the wealth around
John Russ hit six different guys and will (hopefully) be getting back key wideout Chandler Curtis soon. His ability to get the ball in the hands of different guys on the offense keeps the opponent on their toes. It helps that the once the ball is in their hands they are making plays. Robert Brown had one catch on the day but it went for 45 yards on a long run after the grab.
(3) Overcoming the slow start
The Bears had the ball for just eight minutes in the first half. They struggled to get anything going on offense and the defense looked tired by the end of the second quarter. The Bears eventually flipped the switch and put on a much better show in the second half. The Bears will take the bye week to address some of these issues and will hopefully be able to get off to a better start against VMI.
Lamb on flipping the switch: “ We weren’t playing very good. They were outplaying us. They had us behind the eight ball coming into halftime and I was not a happy camper. It was not a happy locker room but the kids got the message and I couldn’t be more proud of them. ”
Lamb on Cole Fisher: “Cole Fisher, I can’t say enough about him. What was it a 49 yarder and he knocks it right through there. What a weapon he is to have.”
Lamb on blocked PAT after the controversial call: “That was big. It just showed that we weren’t going to lay down. Like I said, that play ignited our team, obviously everyone saw it up on the jumbotron, it ignited our team. Even that block even though we didn’t run it back, it ignited our team to take the ball and drive it and get a score.”
Lamb on close games: “Coca-Cola needs to send me some money cause we are selling Coca-Cola’s like crazy in the fourth quarter. We are keeping everybody here with these close games. So if you haven’t been to Five Star Stadium come on out cause it’s going to be a nice football game.”
Sam Walker on getting the win after a tough loss: “It was huge. It was a must win. You know we were coming in 0-2. We lost to two good football teams but that’s no excuse.
Zach Jackson on making big plays: “It means a lot just to go out there and make a big play just to help the team win it just so happened to be the last play.”
John Russ on running for scores: “It feels good to have my ankle healthy this year. I feel pretty quick out there.”