by Jake McDonald, CORE 360 Magazine
Mercer turned seven turnovers into three touchdowns and a field goal to win their first Pioneer Football League game defeating defending and six time conference champion Drake Bulldogs 31-17.
Bears Head Coach Bobby Lamb credited his defense’s efforts to jump starting the offense. “They were big (turnovers) because if I remember correctly we had a lot of the turnovers were on our side of the 50 and they were going in and we made some big hits in there, we made some big strips, and then we got a couple of picks in there in the first half,” said Lamb. “But those were big because it killed their momentum and gave our kids life. In a game like this you need life in the first half.”
The impact of the turnovers was not lost on Drake Head Coach Chris Creighton. “It’s nearly impossible to win when you turn the ball over,” said Creighton. “Hats off to Mercer because you know when there are turnovers and takeaways the other team is responsible for forcing those as we are responsible for giving it up.” Ironically, Drake’s only score of the first half came on the heels of a Dustin Davis interception.
On the Bulldogs first offensive series Mercer’s defense set the tone. Redshirt freshman linebacker Tosin Aguebor delivered a tremendous hit on Drake running back Gary Scott knocking the ball out. Bears linebacker Devin Davidson recovered the ball for Mercer. “We ran to the ball and flew to ball,” said Aguebor. “You do that and turnovers will happen and it happened in this game.”
Cornerbacks and brothers Aaron and Alex Avant were responsible for two scores. Aaron snuffed out the Bulldogs first scoring threat picking off Andy Rice inside the Bears 20 that resulted in a field goal. Later in the second quarter, Alex created his own highlight worthy of making Sports Center’s Top 10 plays. After deflecting the pass from Rice, the true sophomore had the presence of mind to stay with the play catching the carom off of a teammates’ helmet at the Bulldogs 35, and then avoiding a plethora of tacklers on the way to the end zone.
Avant scored less than a minute and a half after quarterback John Russ ran for a 44 yard score that was setup by Scott’s second fumble of the day.
Mercer’s offense also scored two touchdowns on its own. JT Palmer out jumped Drake linebacker John Bloss at the 5 and dove to the 2 to set up a third quarter score. In the fourth, Russ went up top again finding Josh Jones behind the defense for a 62 yard touchdown.
Drake’s final drive ended the way their first drive did with a turnover. Free safety Collin Oliver stepped in front of a Rice pass intended for Grahm Butler.
The only thing missing from Mercer’s team is a good nickname for the Bears swarming defense. If you have one tweet it to @CORE360M.
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