Mercer shakes off slow start to rout VMI, snap losing streak

Mercer defensive back Stephen Houzah (3) intercepts a pass intended for VMI's Rohan Martin (5) during their game Saturday.
Mercer defensive back Stephen Houzah (3) intercepts a pass intended for VMI's Rohan Martin (5) during their game Saturday.

It wasn’t the start the Mercer offense wanted, for sure.

But the Bears bounced back nicely to snap their three-game losing streak.

Mercer quarterback Kaelan Riley’s first pass Saturday against VMI was picked off and returned for a 60-yard touchdown, putting the Bears in an early hole. Mercer responded, however, with a 21-point second quarter and cruised to a 49-14 win.

Mercer improves to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in Southern Conference play. The Keydets are 0-5 and 0-2.

Six who mattered

Riley: The Bears’ redshirt freshman quarterback completed 13-of-24 passes for 318 yards with three touchdowns.

Tee Mitchell: The junior running back had 12 rushes for 56 yards and a 79-yard scoring catch.

Marquise Irvin: The junior wide receiver had six catches for 98 yards.

Chandler Curtis: The senior wide receiver had two scoring catches covering 82 yards.

Will Coneway: The sophomore linebacker was all over the field for the Mercer defense, recording 10 tackles and two for loss.

Stephen Houzah: The junior cornerback had two interceptions.


Getting on the board: Mercer’s defense had its first touchdown of the season on Travonte Easley’s 51-yard interception return for a score in the second quarter.

Strong on defense: The Bears’ defense held the Keydets to 111 yards in the first half on 32 plays. VMI finished the night with 225 yards and only one offensive score.

Throwing it deep: Riley completed six passes in the first half for 213 yards, an average of 35.5 yards per completion. He averaged 24.4 yards per completion for the night.

Getting it going on the ground: After rushing for just 54 yards on 15 carries in the first half, the Bears had 36 carries for 203 yards in the second half. CJ Leggett led the Bears with 89 yards on 16 carries.

Worth mentioning

Stopping the skid: Mercer had suffered its third three-game losing streak since the program started play in 2013. The Bears are 3-0 by a combined score of 157-14 in their games when they are facing a four-game losing streak.

Overcoming the slow start: After VMI got the game’s first score, Mercer responded with 35 straight points to take control.

Tying the record: Alex Lakes had a short touchdown run in the fourth quarter for his 30th career scoring run to tie John Russ for the program record.

They said it

Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb on the win: “I thought (Saturday’s) win was a complete game by our team here at Five Star Stadium in front of a great crowd and atmosphere. I give VMI credit; they gave us a lot of stuff on defense early, but we made some great adjustments at halftime and settled down in the second half.”

Lamb on snapping the losing streak: “I think this win does a lot for this team. We talked about being 1-0 all week. We’ll be back (Sunday) for a team meeting, and our goal will be 1-0 again next week. That’s the only way we can approach each game right now.”

What’s next?

Mercer travels to The Citadel on Saturday.