For four straight years, the Georgia Tech football team has won its first two games, but the Yellow Jackets showed Saturday they remain a work in progress.
Georgia Tech beat Mercer 35-10 on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Yellow Jackets did it by running for 364 yards — 131 more than they got last week against Boston College. But Georgia Tech never found a way to get Mercer off the field and allowed the Bears to keep the ball for 29:42, or nearly half the game.
“I think there were some things we did better than a week ago and there were some things that we did not,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “Other than a couple of fumbles, I was a little more pleased offensively. It was a little more recognizable.”
But defense was another matter. Mercer converted 10-of-18 times on third down and one of its two fourth-down conversions. The Bears ran 68 offensive plays — six more than the Yellow Jackets. They just couldn’t covert those chances into points.
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“We had a hard time getting them off the field,” Johnson said. “Defensively, third down and fourth down wasn’t very good, although when they got down there they didn’t get any points, so that’s a positive.”
Three who mattered
Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas: The senior was dinged up and didn’t play the second half, although Johnson said he could have gone if needed. He finished with 69 yards rushing and one touchdown and was 5-for-10 passing for 80 yards.
Mercer quarterback John Russ: He was able to use quick passes to turn aside any potential rush and acquitted himself well. Russ completed 24-of-38 passes for 225 yards and one touchdown, a 32-yarder to Avery Ward. Russ also rushed for 24 yards.
Georgia Tech A-back Qua Searcy: It was a second straight good performance for the Barnesville product. He led the team in rushing, netting 91 yards on seven carries, including a 31-yarder that fueled a touchdown drive. He also caught a pass for 12 yards. Searcy is rapidly becoming one of the most indispensable players on offense.
Midway in the third quarter, Mercer had eaten 8:20 off the clock, kicked a field goal and forced Georgia Tech to go three-and-out. Georgia Tech lined up in punt formation but snapped the ball to upback Chase Alford — a linebacker — who hustled down the left side for a 21-yard gain. It enabled the Yellow Jackets to score their fourth touchdown and stretch the lead to 28-10.
Question for the Georgia Tech defense: Although the Yellow Jackets allowed only 10 points, they didn’t exactly stop Mercer in its tracks. Mercer used a series of short passes to stay on the field for 29:42. It was the second straight week the Yellow Jackets could not get an opponent off the field on three-and-out.
Too many offensive mistakes for Georgia Tech: A pair of fumbles proved costly to the Yellow Jackets. One came in the first quarter when Marcus Marshall let it go, the other in the fourth period when Quaide Weimerskirch fumbled on the first carry of his career.
Russ a consistent force: Russ never seemed to get rattled by Georgia Tech’s pressure. He was sacked two times but kept his composure and guided the Mercer offense to 320 total yards.
The series: Georgia Tech is now 14-1-1 all-time against Mercer and has won the past 12 meetings. Saturday’s game was the first matching the two teams since 1938.
Opening success: Georgia Tech won its home opener for the 10th straight year. Johnson is 9-0 in home openers.
They said it
Johnson on the overall impression of the game: “I would hope that we would have played better, but we won 35-10. We’ve got a lot of room to improve, we’ve got a lot of things to get better at, and it’s a process. Hopefully we’ll keep working and we’ll get better.”
Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb on his impression of the game: “I’m awfully proud of our football team and the effort and the grit they showed out there (Saturday) on a very hot day in Atlanta.”
Georgia Tech hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday. Mercer hosts Tennessee Tech on Saturday.