Sept. 10, 2016
ATLANTA (AP) Georgia Tech was struggling to put Mercer away.
Coach Paul Johnson wanted to keep his offense on the field.
So he called a fake punt that worked to perfection.
Chase Alford rumbled 21 yards after taking a direct snap, leading to a touchdown that clinched the Yellow Jackets’ 35-10 victory over Mercer on Saturday.
Quarterback Justin Thomas ran for a touchdown before sitting out the second half with what was described as a minor injury.
Backup Matthew Jordan had a couple of 1-yard TD runs, the second one coming after the fake to finally finish off the scrappy Bears , a 4-year-old Southern Conference program playing its first game against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.
”I was like, `Let’s go. We’ve got another shot,”’ Jordan said.
The Yellow Jackets (2-0) overcame an early 7-0 deficit. Thomas tied the game on a 13-yard scoring run late in the first quarter, and short-yardage specialist Jordan put the Yellow Jackets ahead to stay with his first TD.
Mercer (0-2) started the second half with a 17-play, 61-yard drive that consumed nearly 8 1/2 minutes, leading to a field goal that cut the deficit to 21-10. On Georgia Tech’s next possession, the Bears appeared to force a three-and-out.
With the temperature climbing into the 90s on a sunny, sweltering day, Johnson didn’t want his defense to go back on the field so quickly.
So he turned to Alford to pull off the fake.
”We needed to get another possession,” the linebacker said. ”Coach said to run it. I was able to get some good blocking and get the first down.”
Thomas ran seven times for 69 yards and completed 5-of-10 passes for 80 yards before calling it a day. He could’ve gone back in if needed, according to Johnson.
No need. Jordan did just fine, rushing 12 times for 44 yards.
Mercer stunned the home crowd by jumping ahead on John Russ’ 32-yard TD pass to Avery Ward, after Georgia Tech fumbled the ball away on the opening possession of the game.
”I’m awfully proud of the effort and grit they showed out there,” Bears coach Bobby Lamb said.
The Yellow Jackets turned to their running game to wear down Mercer, finishing with 364 yards on the ground. Qua Searcy led the way with 91 yards and six other players were in double figures rushing.
”I was hoping we would play better,” Johnson said. ”There’s a lot of things we can improve on, a lot of things we can get better at. It’s a process.”
Russ was 24 of 38 for 225 yards. The Bears were limited to 85 yards rushing.
SHAKING THINGS UP
Johnson followed through on his threat to make lineup changes after a lackluster win over Boston College in the season opener.
Searcy got the nod at A-back, Andrew Marshall started at left tackle and Grant Aasen took over the punting duties (though only for one ugly kick). Also, Marcus Marshall started at B-back after freshman Dedrick Mills was suspended for violating team rules.
Mercer: The Bears picked up a $300,000 payday for making an 87-mile trip to Atlanta, which didn’t even require a hotel stay. ”We take a lot of money home,” Lamb quipped.
Georgia Tech: It’s hard to read much into a victory over an outclassed opponent, though the Yellow Jackets at least got a chance to send out some little-used players. Third-string quarterback TaQuon Marshall scored his first college touchdown on a late 11-yard run.
Mercer: The Bears return home to meet Tennessee Tech, still looking for their first win of the season.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets will take a step up in competition when they host Vanderbilt from the Southeastern Conference next Saturday. This will be the first meeting between the schools since 2009. Georgia Tech has not lost to the Commodores since 1941, going 11-0-1 since then.
- With the win, Georgia Tech moved to 2-0 for the fourth-straight season and seventh time in nine seasons under head coach Paul Johnson.
- Georgia Tech won its home opener for the 10th-straight year and 17th time in the last 18 years. The Yellow Jackets moved to 93-25-4 all-time in home openers.
- Georgia Tech moved to 14-1-1 all-time versus Mercer and claimed its 12th-straight win in the series, dating back to 1908. Saturday’s game was the first between the Yellow Jackets and Bears since 1938 – Mercer did not field a football team from 1942-2012.
- Georgia Tech has won back-to-back games for the first time since it opened last season with wins over Alcorn State (69-9) and Tulane (65-10).
- Georgia Tech blocked a field goal for the second time this season when Kyle Cerge-Henderson blocked a 37-yard attempt in the fourth quarter. It was Georgia Tech’s 16th blocked kick since the beginning of the 2013 season – the Yellow Jackets entered Saturday tied with BYU and Temple with the most blocked kicks by an NCAA Division I FBS team since the beginning of ’13 (15).
- Georgia Tech’s 35 points were its most in 12 games, dating back to its 65-10 win over Tulane on Sept. 12 of last season.
- Mercer’s 10 points were also the fewest that Georgia Tech has allowed in 12 games, dating back to the 65-10 win over Tulane on Sept. 12 of last season.
- Georgia Tech’s 444 yards of offense were its most in eight games, dating back to it totaling 482 yards in a 31-28 loss to Pittsburgh on Oct. 17 of last season.
- Georgia Tech senior quarterback Justin Thomas scored the 17th rushing touchdown of his career in the first quarter, which moved him into a tie for fifth all-time among Georgia Tech quarterbacks and a tie for 10th overall in school history.
- With 149 yards of total offense, Thomas passed Mike Kelley (5,198 yds. – 1978-81) to move into seventh in Georgia Tech history with 5,287 yards of total offense.
- Backup quarterback Matthew Jordan had a career-high two rushing touchdowns (both from one yard out). He has three rushing touchdowns in two games this season and five in seven career games.
- One week after setting a career high with 60 receiving yards against Boston College, sophomore A-back Qua Searcy set a career high with 91 rushing yards on 7 carries (13.0 avg.).
- Georgia Tech first-career starts: