Mercer University's start-up Division I football program beat Drake University 31-17 at home in Macon on Saturday.
The Bulldogs were the first experienced team Mercer has faced, as well as their first Pioneer League opponent. Drake, last year’s conference co-champion, was highly favored.
Mercer actually totaled fewer yards than Drake but took advantage of seven turnovers to score four touchdowns.
Defensive back Alex Avant had one of the picks and scored in dramatic fashion by weaving around potential tackles.
“He threw the ball, I jumped up, tipped it, it bounced off another linebacker. Then somehow the ball fell in my hands. I remember I caught it, then I went left, and I was like okay, I’m probably just about to go out of bounds. You know what, might as well just try to score. I guess somehow I ended up in the endzone,” Avant said.
Quarterback John Russ threw for 172 yards and rushed for 55 to score 21 of the Bears’ points.
It was the biggest win yet for the program, said student body president Raymond Partolan.
“We definitely defied all odds beating Drake. Up until this point, I’ve heard talk around the student body that we’ve just been playing easy teams and that’s why we’ve been winning. But now we’ve played a great team, and we won,” Partolan said.
Running back Payton Usher added 90 rushing yards to his impressive 13th-ranked season total. Mercer has also lead national FCS stats in defense with 209 yards allowed.
The team will play its first away game this coming Saturday against conference foe San Diego University.