by Jake McDonald, CORE 360 Magazine
Mercer was without playmakers Payton Usher and JT Palmer (ACL injury) but it didn’t stop the Orange and Black attack. Quarterback John Russ and running back JeTarii Donald each rushed for touchdowns in an explosive 17 point third quarter to lead the Bears to a 41-14 win over Stetson.
The Bears improved to 10-2 and set a new NCAA all-time record for wins in a season for first year programs. Old Dominion held the previous record having won 9 games (9-2) in their 2009 inaugural season. Many of those wins were accomplished at home as the win capped the Bears perfect 8-0 record at home.
Stetson, best known for their baseball program, also completed their first year of football finishing 2-9. The Hatters kept the game close through the first half on a 3 yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tentla to Nicka LaSala.
During halftime, Mercer Head Coach expressed his disappointment in the team’s play with a considerable amount of volume. “I got a little wild there at halftime,” said Lamb. Linebacker Tyler Ward wasn’t accustomed to seeing that side of his coach before. “We haven’t seen him freak out like that since camp” said Ward.
Whatever Coach Lamb said to his squad it worked. Mercer’s defense shutdown the Hatters opening drive of the second half. The Bears offense took over from there. Russ called his own number on the sixth play from scrimmage squirting through a hole in the defense for a 49 yard touchdown.
Stetson struggled to regain their offensive rhythm as the Mercer defense held them to 2 yards and 0 points in the third.
Caleb Brown added another touchdown for the Bears on a two yard run in the fourth quarter.
By any measure, a ten win season is a big accomplishment. For a first year program, it is a testament to the hard work that started long before they ever stepped on the field. Russ characterized it perfectly after the game, “It was an unbelievable season”.
John Russ 17 rushes 135 yards 1 TD, 1 rec. 32 yards, 1 TD
JeTarii Donald 28 rushes 139 yards, 1 TD, 2 rec. 56 yards 1 TD
Tyler Ward 11 tackles
Ryan Tentler 19 of 29 138 yds 2 TD
Darius McGriff 5 rec. 70 yards
Dave Lazear 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks
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