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Thursday, Dec 2, 2021

Football suffers first conference loss of the season against VMI

<p>Mercer tight end Drake Starks barrels through defenders during Saturday&#x27;s game against VMI. The Bears would lose the game 45-7. Photo provided by Mercer Athletics.</p>

Mercer tight end Drake Starks barrels through defenders during Saturday's game against VMI. The Bears would lose the game 45-7. Photo provided by Mercer Athletics.

Mercer football took on the Virginia Military Institution Keydets Saturday, falling by a score of 45-7 in a disappointing blowout loss in Five Star Stadium.

After starting the season 4-1 with their only loss coming against top-five Alabama, the Bears came into their Saturday game against VMI looking to continue their conference dominance. VMI had other plans, as the loss brought Mercer's conference record to 3-1 and their overall record to 4-2.

It became clear that the Bears were in for a long day as soon as the opening drive began. On the very first play of the game, Mercer quarterback Fred Payton was intercepted by VMI defensive back Alex Oliver who returned the pick 39 yards for the touchdown.

Down 7-0, the Bears’ offense returned to the field looking to bounce back. Instead, Payton’s bad start continued as he fumbled the football on a sack by Keydets defensive back Will Bunton. With only twenty yards to go after the turnover, VMI scored in just three plays, ending with a 13-yard touchdown run by quarterback Seth Morgan.

Now down 14-0, the Bears managed to get out of the first quarter without sustaining any further damage. The second quarter was not as kind and opened when VMI running back Rashad Raymond ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run during VMI’s first possession.

With Mercer down by three scores and the game now starting to spiral out of control, the Bears stalled on drive after drive against VMI’s stifling defense. VMI chipped in a field goal to bring the score to 24-0 heading into the half.

While 24-0 was a harsh deficit, the Bears didn’t appear totally out of the game heading into the third quarter. Any hope was dashed by the end of the quarter, though, as VMI scored not once but twice to bring the lead to 38-0.

Now trying to avoid being shut out, Mercer put in quarterback Carter Peevy to protect Payton from injury and find some new life in the offense. After allowing yet another touchdown, the Bears put together their only successful drive of the game.

With less than four minutes remaining, Peevy found Ethan Dirrim in the air for a 71-yard touchdown for Mercer’s first and only score on the game.

Mercer managed to avoid the shutout, but still lost in a tough blowout against VMI. The Bears will remain home for next week’s game against Wofford on Oct 23, and look to improve their conference record.


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