LEXINGTON, Va. – The Mercer University football team claimed its first Southern Conference victory, holding off VMI, 27-24, on Saturday afternoon at Foster Stadium.
The Bears scored on their first two possessions of the second half to grab a 27-14 lead in third quarter, but VMI rallied back. The Keydets’ tallied 10-straight points to pull within a field goal, before Mercer’s defense came up with a big stop in the closing minute. Sophomore safety Zach Jackson picked off VMI quarterback Al Cobb at the Bears’ five-yard line to preserve the victory, as the offense went to victory formation to run out the clock.
In a game that featured two of the SoCon’s leading offenses, it was Mercer’s defense that proved to be the story of the game. The Bears forced four turnovers in the contest, holding VMI’s high-powered attack to 24 points despite facing a short field on several occasions. Mercer overcame three turnovers of its own to rack up 445 yards of total offense, behind the power of 269 yards rushing. Alex Lakes, the SoCon’s leading rusher, paced the Bears’ offense with 98 yards and two scores on the ground, while Tee Mitchell added 72 yards on 11 carries. Freshman Chandler Curtis used a pair of big plays to finish with a team-high 181 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, scoring on a 62-yard catch-and-run and a 23-yard reverse.
Tyler Ward and Alex Avant led the Bears’ defensive effort. Ward finished with a team-high 11 tackles, while Avant notched a season-best 10 tackles to go along with three pass break-ups and a forced fumble. Jeremy James tallied eight tackles, LeMarkus Bailey and Mike Gray each forced fumbles.
Mercer will be back in action next Saturday, October 4, as it continues Southern Conference play at Samford. Kick-off is set for 3 p.m. EST.