Carnegie Mellon did not have a good pregame period.
Thats when Rob Kalkstein failed the final concussion test to determine if he would play. The senior quarterback who had completed 60.6 percent of his passes this season for 1,013 yards failed that test.
With that, Carnegie Mellons game plan for an upset took a huge hit. The Tartans offense got nothing going, and its defense had plenty of trouble stopping Mercer as the host Bears rolled to a 54-21 win Saturday afternoon.
Any time youre playing a team where youre favored, you want to come out in the first quarter and deliver a knockout punch, Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb said. I thought we really did that. I dont think they had a first down in the first quarter, and we were up (27-0).
Quarterback John Russ threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, while JT Palmer caught two touchdown passes and Payton Usher rushed for 115 yards in less than a half of work. Tyler Ward and Michael Rainwater led the defense with eight tackles each.
We were outplayed by a better team, Carnegie Mellon head coach Rich Lackner said. I know that. Everybody that was here knows that.
A little more than a half-full Mercer University Stadium watched Mercer (6-1) finish with its non-Division I and non-NCAA competition for the season. The Bears have now dispatched two Division III opponents 97-21 and a pair of NAIA teams 101-37.
Mercer takes to the road for two straight games, at Campbell and Davidson in Pioneer Football League competition after another routine victory.
The Division III Tartans (3-4) were in an immediate hole without Kalkstein, who was in shorts and a T-shirt on the sidelines trying to help his team. But the first-half script was pretty basic: Mercer scored, while Carnegie Mellon punted.
The Bears scored on all six first-half possessions, with four touchdowns and two field goals, and the Tartans punted on their first five drives.
All week, we were practicing working on the wing-T, making sure we plugged our gaps and made sure we got our assignments, Mercer defensive end Kelly Brooks said. Once the quarterback came out, it didnt really change our mindset.
Russ had an efficient first half, completing 7-of-13 for 126 yards, two going to Palmer for touchdowns of 18 and 9 yards. Ushers day didnt last long. He had 115 yards on seven carries and a 52-yard touchdown run in the first half. His final carry came with a little more than five minutes to go in the half.
Mercer needed only seven plays to score its first two touchdowns, then followed up with two nine-play drives that covered 50 and 72 yards for scores.
The only hiccup was on the snap for the extra-point try after the fourth touchdown.
Meanwhile, Carnegie Mellon was struggling to get just positive yardage. The Tartans were held to five straight three-and-outs and negative yardage before getting a 51-yard pass play from Andrew Hearon to Tim Kikta -- their first and only completion of the half -- with about six minutes left in the second quarter.
That set up Steve Srobas shutout-breaking 2-yard run with 3:09 to go.
The Bears had a devastating stat advantage after a quarter: 179 yards total offense to minus-1 for Carnegie Mellon on six more plays. The halftime stat gap was massive: 351-82 in total offense and 15-3 in first downs in favor of Mercer.
We kinda got shellshocked there early, Lackner said. They stuck it to us pretty good early on.
Mercers backups played in the second half as Carnegie Mellon got a little better. The Tartans were outscored 21-14 but outgained the Bears 229-195 in the second half.
I think we got everybody on the bench in the game, Lamb said. That was good. This was just another stepping stone in our program.