The Mercer University football team has continued to surprise everyone in their inaugural season as the Bears were able to beat their first Pioneer League opponent--Drake-- who was last season's conference co-champion, 31-17.
Mercer quarterback John Russ threw for 172 yards and rushed for 55 yards in a win which improves the Bears to 4 and 0. Drake falls to 1 and 4.
Russ told the Macon Telegraph prior to the Drake game the following:
“We’re definitely ready for the challenge,” Mercer quarterback John Russ said. “As a competitor, you look forward to these kinds of challenges, and you want to see how you can do against these kinds of teams. We’re very excited. We want to see how our team will do in this kind of game and how we will play.
Prior to the Saturday's game, Mercer had ranked third nationally in FCS play in rushing yards with 324.3 per game and defensively the team had allowed 209.3 total yards per game.
Drake had been heavily favored, and had won the previous week at Indianapolis.
Once the game started, it was all Mercer. The Bears had scored the first 17 points of the game and led 17-7 at halftime.
Defensive, the Bears picked off Drake's starting quarterback Andy Rice four times.
Defensive back Alex Avant had one of the interceptions and scored at the 9:28 mark of the second quarter to give Mercer a commanding 17-0 lead.
Avant described his interception return to the Georgia Public Broadcasting's Jane Hammond:
“He threw the ball, I jumped up, tipped it, it bounced off another linebacker. Then somehow the ball fell in my hands. I remember I caught it, then I went left, and I was like okay, I’m probably just about to go out of bounds. You know what, might as well just try to score. I guess somehow I ended up in the endzone,” Avant said.
Offensively, Mercer had run the ball 41 times for 161 total yards.Bears running back Payton Usher led everyone with 90 rushing yards.
The Bears are scheduled to play its first road game on Saturday, October 5 against conference foe San Diego University.