1. Two first-year freshmen played their first snaps Saturday – guard Parker Braun and defensive tackle Brandon Adams. That brings to four the members of the 2016 signing class who have played this year. B-back Dedrick Mills and wide receiver Jalen Camp are the other two. (Many members of the class, including A-back Xavier Gantt and linebacker Emanuel Bridges, did not dress for the game, an indication that they are likely to redshirt this season.)
Others who played in their first game Saturday: cornerbacks Dorian Walker, Lamont Simmons and Meiko Dotson, kicker Shawn Davis, safety Christian Campbell, B-back Quaide Weimerskirch, A-back Nate Cottrell, guards Brad Morgan and Braun, punter Grant Aasen, wide receiver Harland Howell, defensive tackle Brentavious Glanton and defensive end Desmond Branch.
Simmons was on the field fairly early in the game, as well as Braun, who threw a few nice blocks in his time subbing for Shamire Devine.
Weimerskirch had a tough day. On his first career carry, he was stripped of the ball and Tech lost possession on the Mercer 2-yard line. Coach Paul Johnson called the fumble – as well as that of B-back Marcus Marshall – “inexcusable.” Weimerskirch had more of an opportunity to play with Dedrick Mills and KirVonte Benson both out for team rules violations and was unable to capitalize.
2. With Mills out, Marshall had the majority of carries at B-back, with 10 (for 51 yards and a touchdown) out of the 13 B-back carries. Marcus Allen had two and Weimerskirch had the one.
Marshall had a big error with his fumble on the opening drive, but he showed a physical dimension that he didn’t always play with as a first-year freshman. Quarterbacks and B-backs coach Bryan Cook said more than once last year that he wanted to see the B-backs break more tackles, and Marshall showed Cook something Saturday. On his 10-yard touchdown run, Marshall dragged Mercer safety Mike Gray in from the 3-yard line and lowed his pads and knocked over the other safety, Zach Jackson, at the goal line.
Said Marshall, “I just looked for open grass, just tried to get to the end zone.”
On quarterback Matthew Jordan’s 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, his block at the line on linebacker LeMarkus Bailey knocked him on his backside, helping clear the way for Jordan.
“I feel like every week’s a new opportunity,” Marshall said.
Johnson rated Marshall’s play “O.K.” The fumble, clearly, was a major demerit.
3. A-back Qua Searcy’s rushing total (91 yards, on seven carries) was the most by an A-back since the 2013 season. Searcy ran with power and speed and was a difference maker for the second week in a row.
The last A-back to gain more was Robbie Godhigh, against Clemson in a 55-31 loss. That was an all-timer for the position, as he had 126 rushing yards and 103 receiving yards, becoming one of just a handful of players in school history to clear 100 yards in both categories.
4. Only one team did better last year on third down against Tech than Mercer’s 10-for-18. That would be national runner-up Clemson, which was 10-for-16. The problem was allowing the Bears to get into 3rd-and-short repeatedly. Mercer had 3rd-and-4 or less eight times and converted six of them. It bears mention, though, that slightly longer situations weren’t much better. Between 3rd-and-5 and 3rd-and-9, Mercer was 4-for-7. The Bears were 0-for-3 on three 3rd-and-10 plays.
It follows Boston College picking up six of 14 third downs.
5. One problem area for the offense last week, off-target pitches and tosses, was not as much of an issue Saturday. Whether it was more practice time, better field conditions or something else, quarterback Justin Thomas’ option pitches and tosses to the A-backs and B-backs were caught in stride. Perhaps the lone exception was a toss to Searcy, which may have been a little bit behind him and was dropped.
It caused Tech’s only negative-yardage play of the day.
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