In a showcase of great defense paired with steady offensive output, the Bears won their first Southern Conference matchup of the season Saturday against the Furman Paladins by a score of 24-3.
Furman opened the game with a 13 play, 50-yard drive that looked as if it would generate a touchdown. The Mercer defense eventually stood up against the Paladins, though, holding them to just a field goal to start the game. It would be the last time Furman put points on the board for the entire afternoon.
From there, it was all Mercer. The Bears rolled 75 yards down the field in just nine plays for the first score of the game on the very next drive to make it 7-0. Mercer continued to score, finishing the game with 24 unanswered points in a surprising rout.
In the post-game press conference, head coach Drew Cronic spoke the defense’s praises.
“Defensively when you don't let someone cross the goal line for three hours, that's pretty good," Cronic said. "We were really active and aggressive defensively today.”
Defensive standouts included Isaac Dowling, who recorded 11 tackles, along with four players who all recorded interceptions: Luke Ward, Richie Coffey, Yahsyn McKee and Michael Campbell.
At quarterback, Fred Payton started under center after a strong showing against Alabama. He went 10-20 for 168 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
“Fred has a lot of talent and he cares and wants to get better,” Cronic said. “He made some plays, he extended some plays, he ran for some first downs to keep us on the field.”
Payton’s play wasn’t the only driving force of the offense, however. Both Fred Davis and Brandon Marshall had great rushing days with Davis recording 94 yards on the ground and Marshall running for 66 yards and two touchdowns. Ty James also caught three passes for 77 yards and a score to lead Mercer's receiving corps.
The 24-3 win over Furman, a team that typically resides at the top of the SoCon standings, gives Cronic and the Mercer team confidence going into the remainder of conference play.
The Bears will look to ride the momentum of a big win into an Oct. 2 home game against Samford as SoCon play continues.