Georgia programs buzzing about big plays

A pair of Georgia college football programs are buzzing after making big defensive plays last week.

Berry College linebacker Anthony Batey returned a fumble 100 yards for a touchdown while Mercer University cornerback Alex Avant returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown.

Avant’s play, according to Mercer, was the No. 1 play on the Saturday edition of ESPN’s Top 10 Plays and the No. 3 play on the network’s Top Plays of the Weekend. The pick-six was also featured on the Yahoo! Sports Minute Blog while Batey’s fumble return was a play-of-the-week finalist on D3football.com.

In Saturday’s game at Rhodes College, Batey recovered the ball six yards deep in the end zone. When defensive back Bradley Brown provided a block in the end zone, Batey decided to return the fumble, rather than settle for a touchback.

Three other Vikings provided Batey with blocks along the way — defensive back Malcholm Graham at the five yard line, linebacker Matt Farinella at the 20 yard line and linebacker Preston Stewart at the 40 yard line. Berry (1-3) ended up falling to Rhodes (3-1), 36-24.

For his part, Avant’s big play began when he pulled in a tipped pass. The cornerback then weaved his way from one sideline to the the other, eluding tackles before taking the interception to the house, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

The play gave Mercer (4-0) a 17-0 second quarter lead, and the Bears went on to knock off Drake University (1-3) by a 31-17 margin in Mercer’s inaugural Pioneer Football League (PFL) matchup.

“Looking at it on film, it seemed a lot different than in the game,” Avant said. “I didn’t think I did all that.”

Added Avant: “I honestly had no idea that play was going to make SportsCenter, let alone Yahoo! and all the other websites. Even after it happened I didn’t think it was that amazing. I’ve gotten a lot of tweets, a lot of text messages, a lot more followers on Twitter. It’s pretty cool.”

Mercer is set to take its first road trip of the year, traveling to California to take on two-time defending PFL champions and preseason favorite San Diego (2-2).

Berry plays at Washington University (2-2) in St. Louis on Saturday. It marks Berry’s final non-conference game of the year, though Washington — along with the University of Chicago — is joining the Southern Athletic Association in 2014 as a football-only member.

Berry, a Division III school, is playing in the school’s inaugural football season while Mercer, a Football Championship Subdivision member, is playing its first football season in 72 years.

NOTES

— Berry’s Dale Jackson will make his first start of the season as quarterback against Washington.

— Mercer’s win over Drake marked the Bears’ first victory of the season over a Division I program.

— During Mercer’s 157:34 scoreless streak, the Bears’ offense notched 127 unanswered points.

— Berry’s Campbell Harrison posted the Vikings’ first points against a varsity program when he hit a 32-yard field goal. A seven-yard touchdown pass from Adam Sandin to Sean Stassie marked Berry’s first touchdown against a varsity program. Berry’s sole win thus far this year was against a junior varsity squad.

Note: Alex Avant’s quotes were provided by Mercer University.

About the author

Todd DeFeo

Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits The Travel Trolley and Railfanning.org.