For four straight years the Georgia Tech football team has won its first two games, but the Yellow Jackets showed on Saturday they remain a work in progress.
Georgia Tech beat Mercer 35-10 on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Yellow Jackets did it by running for 364 yards — 131 more than they got last week against Boston College. But Georgia Tech never found a way to get Mercer off the field and allowed the Bears to keep the ball for 29:42 minutes.
“I think there were some things we did better than a week ago and there were some things that we did not,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “Other than a couple of fumbles, I was a little more pleased offensively. It was a little more recognizable.”
But defense was another matter. Mercer converted 10 of 18 times on third down and one of its two fourth-down conversions. The Bears ran 68 offensive plays — six more than the Yellow Jackets. They just couldn’t covert those chances into points.
“We had a hard time getting them off the field,” Johnson said. “Defensively, third down and fourth down wasn’t very good, although when they got down there they didn’t get any points, so that’s a positive.”
Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas played only the first half. The senior was dinged up and didn’t play the second half, although coach Paul Johnson said he could have gone if needed. He finished with 69 yards rushing and one touchdown and was 5-for-10 passing for 80 yards.
Matthew Jordan played most of the second half and took the team down field twice. The Yellow Jackets scored once and fell short on the 2 when Quaide Weimerskirch fumbled on his first college carry. Jordan didn’t throw a pass and ran 12 times for 44 yards and two touchdowns. Third-string quarterback TaQuon Marshall (Harris County) scored late on an 11-yard touchdown run.
Georgia Tech A-back Qua Searcy turned in his second straight good performance. He led the team in rushing, netting 91 yards on seven carries, including a 31-yarder that fueled a touchdown drive. He also caught a pass for 12 yards.
Mercer quarterback John Russ played well. He was able to use quick passes to turn aside any potential rush and acquitted himself well. Russ completed 24 of 38 passes for 225 yards and one touchdown, a 32-yarder to Avery Ward. Russ also rushed for 24 yards.
In fact, the Bears were still in the game in the third period. They took the second-half kickoff and ate 8:20 off the clock. Mercer kicked a field and forced Georgia Tech to go three-and-out. Georgia Tech lined up in punt formation, but snapped the ball to upback Chase Alford — a linebacker — who hustled down the left side for a 21-yard gain. It enabled the Yellow Jackets to score their fourth touchdown and stretch the lead to 28-10.
Georgia Tech is now 14-1-1 all-time against Mercer and has won the last 12 meetings. Saturday’s game was the first matching the two teams since 1938. The Yellow Jackets have won their home opener for 10 straight years and Johnson is 9-0 in home openers.
“I would hope that we would have played better, but we won 35-10,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a lot of room to improve, we’ve got a lot of things to get better at and it’s a process. Hopefully we’ll keep working and we’ll get better.”
Mercer coach Bobby Lamb said, “I’m awfully proud of our football team and the effort and the grit they showed out there today on a very hot day in Atlanta.”