MACON, Ga. (MERCER RELEASE) – The Mercer University football team jumped all over Warner in the opening half Saturday evening and cruised to a 61-0 victory in front of another capacity crowd at Mercer University Stadium.
John Russ' four total touchdowns in the first half sent Mercer to the fifth most points in school history as the Bears continued to impress in their return to the gridiron. The shutout is the first since the final season of play in 1941 when Mercer ran past Georgia Southern 25-0.
"We are excited about this win, but more importantly we are excited about the shutout," said head coach Bobby Lamb. "I thought our defense did a good job of stopping the run early and offensively we were able to run the ball and that's what we wanted to do coming in."
After both teams went scoreless over the first five minutes, Mercer jumped on the board when John Russ found Jordan Marshall on a crossing route and the duo connected for a 14 yard touchdown to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.
The touchdown pass opened the floodgates for the Mercer offense that hit its stride and found the end zone four more times in the opening half. Caleb Brown followed up a 48-yard scamper with a one-yard touchdown run to give the Bears a 13-0 advantage with 2:46 remaining in the opening quarter.
The second quarter was all about Russ who threw for two touchdowns and ran for another to extend the Mercer lead to 34-0 heading to intermission. Josh Jones and JT Palmer were on the receiving end of Russ' touchdown throws, while his eight-yard run up the middle gave the redshirt freshman four total touchdowns in the opening half.
The Bears continued the onslaught in the second half when Michael Haynes saw his first action under center and used a quarterback sneak up the middle to make it 51-0.
Special teams made its impact in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter when Warner lined up to punt on its own 14 yard line and Sytavious Brown broke through and blocked the attempt. Jabari Scruggs scooped up the ball and shook a tackle along the sideline before breaking the goal line to give Mercer a 58-0 advantage. Tyler Zielenske saw his first action of the year and connected on a 30-yard field goal with 4:38 remaining to cap the scoring and send Mercer to a 61-0 victory.
JeTarri Donald quietly paced the dominate Mercer rushing attack, finishing with 102 yards on 11 carries, while Payton Usher added 98 yards and Caleb Brown ran for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
Palmer led the receiving core with three catches, 53 yards and one touchdown, while Marshall and Jones each tallied receiving touchdowns.
Mercer held the Royals to just 154 yards of total offense and six first downs, while the Bears' offense lit up Warner for 402 yards and 28 first downs. Russ finished 11-for-20 through the air for 168 yards and three passing touchdowns.
The Bears will look to run their record to 3-0 next weekend, playing host to Berry at Mercer University Stadium with Kickoff slated for 6 p.m.