Russ, Bears offense get off to strong start
Mercer’s first drive Saturday against Georgia Tech ended with a beautiful touchdown pass from quarterback John Russ to Avery Ward and an early Bears lead.
And while Russ was pleased with the play, the offense’s missed opportunities bothered him coming out of Mercer’s 35-10 loss to the Yellow Jackets.
Mercer finished with 320 yards of offense and jumped on top 7-0 on Russ’ connection with Ward. The Bears’ senior quarterback completed 24-of-38 passes for 225 yards, and he rushed for 24 yards on eight carries. The Bears rushed for 85 yards on 28 carries in their first game against an FBS opponent.
Cole Fisher added a 31-yard field goal in the second half but had another field goal blocked.
“We’re a really good football team. Georgia Tech’s a good football team, and they’ve got a lot of athletes on that field,” Russ said when asked what he took from the game. “We competed really well with them. If we score in the red zone those two times instead of kicking field goals, and we got one blocked, it’s a different game.
“We’ve just got to take away that we can play with these guys, and we can still win the (Southern Conference) championship. We’ve just gotta win out. Nine games, that’s all we have left.”
Mercer starts its trek toward to the end of the season Saturday at home against Tennessee Tech in a non-conference game. After that, it’s all conference games the rest of the way.
But before the offense looks ahead, it will look back at the loss to the Yellow Jackets, and that included a strong start to both halves.
Fisher’s field goal capped a 17-play, 61-yard drive to open the second half and cut Georgia Tech’s lead to 21-10.
“Extremely happy about the very first drive,” Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb said of the opening touchdown. “I felt like we worked all week, and we’ve got a script of eight plays, and for the most part, we held to the script, and John made a fabulous throw across his body. But he knew what the coverage was, and he knew we had a drag coming through the back side and a post over the top, and he just made a super throw to get us in the end zone.
“I wish we could have gotten in there a few more times, but the first drive was awesome, both halves.”
Marquise Irvin had his second straight strong game with eight catches for 65 yards, while Sam Walker caught five passes for 41 yards. Ward had three catches for 65 yards, including the first score.
“I honestly didn’t see him catch it,” Russ said. “I was rolling out left, and probably a cardinal sin and threw it across my body, but it ended up working for a touchdown. So sometimes you get a little lucky.”