Mercer drubs Furman

College Sports

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Fred Payton passed for 168 yards and a touchdown, and Mercer rode a solid defensive effort to beat Furman, 24-3, in the Southern Conference season opener for both teams in front of 10.203 fans Saturday afternoon at Paladin Stadium.

Payton, a junior from Suwanee, Ga., and transfer from Coastal Carolina, completed 10-of-20 passes, including a 35-yard, first quarter touchdown strike to Ty James to give Mercer (2-1, 1-0 SoCon) a 7-3 lead.

The Bears ran for 223 yards in the contest, including a game-high 94 yards from Fred Davis, and got a pair of pair of touchdown runs from Brandon Marshall —  both in a decisive 14-point second quarter  — to take command and a 21-3 lead into halftime.

Furman (2-2, 0-1 SoCon) scored on the game’s opening possession with a 46-yard Timmy Bleekrode field goal but was blanked thereafter, failing to register a touchdown for the first time in a game since dropping a 31-3 road decision to Chattanooga in 2015.  Prior to today the last time Furman didn’t score a touchdown at home was versus Samford in 2014 in a 45-0 verdict.

Paladin starting quarterback Hamp Sisson threw for 141 yards, completing 16-of-25 passes, but he suffered three interceptions.  His replacement, true freshman Jace Wilson, made his collegiate debut in the second half and completed 6-of-12 passes for 60 yards, but was also intercepted, giving the Bears four pickoffs in the contest.

Trailing 7-3 in the first period, Furman safety DiMarcus Clay intercepted a batted Payton pass at the Mercer 48 and returned it to the 36.    The Paladins failed to capitalize, however, when Sisson was picked off by Luke Ward at the Mercer 12 on the first play of the second period.

The Bears covered 91 yards in seven plays to go up 14-7 on a 10-yard Marshall touchdown run midway through the second period, the score set up by a 39-yard pass from Payton to Parker Wroble to the Furman 10.

On the ensuing possession Mercer’s Yahsyn McKee blocked a Bleekrode 37-yard field goal attempt with 2:41,  and the Bears followed it up with nine-play, 80-yard drive spiced with a 26-yard pass from Payton to Ty James to the Furman 22.  Marshall’s second score of the period, on a 1-yard run around right end, stretched Mercer’s lead to 21-3.

Devin Folser’s 45-yard third quarter field goal accounted for the game’s only second half points.

The Bears finished with a 391-292 advantage in total offense.

Furman, which managed only 91 yards rushing on 32 carries, didn’t have one run for more than nine yards in the contest.

The Paladins, idle next Saturday, play at Wofford on Oct. 9.

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