MACON, Ga. – The Mercer University football team weathered the elements Saturday evening and used 513 yards of total offense to roll past Berry College 43-0 at Mercer University Stadium in non-conference action.
The Bears (3-0) continued their combination of powerful offensive numbers and stifling defense to record a second straight shutout and dominate the Vikings.
“Overall another great victory for us as we move forward,” said head coach Bobby Lamb. “I told our team on the field after the game that we need to be excited about where we are, however the real season begins now because you have the Drake Bulldogs coming to town and they have been a part of the PFL for a long time and have an outstanding program.”
The defense set the tone in the opening minutes of the contest, when Mike Gray recorded the team’s first interception of the year to setup a John Russ 14-yard strike to Robert Brown and give the Bears a 7-0 lead with 12:32 left in the first quarter.
Russ was at it again later in the opening quarter, finding Jordan Marshall up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown pass to give Mercer a 14-0 advantage.
The ground game took over from there and Payton Usher was center stage, getting 12 carries and rushing for a career-high 154 yards and a touchdown, including a 65-yard score to give the Bears a 21-0 lead with 13:31 left in the opening half.
“As we got out there and I saw how hard it was raining and how wet it was I said ‘we’re not throwing this ball.’ Certainly we had a lot of success running the ball and we made a couple of quick throws and got the ball out to the people who need to catch the football.”
The running attack then shifted to Caleb Brown and he took over in full force, rushing for 55 yards on 10 carries, including a pair of touchdown runs to send Mercer to a commanding 34-0 advantage heading to intermission.
The defense continued to make headlines in the third quarter, forcing an intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety to make it 36-0. A Jabari Scruggs two-yard touchdown run in the opening minute of the fourth quarter capped the scoring for Mercer and put a lid on a 43-0 shutout.
Entering the game ranked third in the country in FCS rushing yards per game, the Bears continued their onslaught on the ground, rushing for 379 yards and four touchdowns.
Usher’s 65-yard run marked the longest play from scrimmage on the year for the Bears, while Russ’ two touchdown passes in the opening quarter gave him eight on the season. Michael Haynes saw time under center and went 6-for-12 through the air for 45 yards. JT Palmer led all receivers with two catches for 48 yards, including a 36 yard catch in the opening quarter.
After not sending the punt team on the field in over six quarters, Rob East sailed six punts in the air for an average of 43.2 yards and a long of 58 yards. He pinned the Berry offense inside the five-yard line three different times, including a rolling punt that was downed at the one yard line.
The Bears open Pioneer League Football action next Saturday, welcoming the Drake Bulldogs to town for the Mercer’s inaugural PFL contest. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.