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MACON, Ga. – Coming off another Pioneer Football League victory at home, the Mercer University football team turns its attention to the final non-conference game of the regular season, when it welcomes Carnegie Mellon to town on Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Game seven of the 2013 season will see Mercer step out of conference play one last time during the regular season as it looks to remain one of the current 42 FCS teams with a perfect record at home. Great seats, along with standing room only tickets and berm seating are still available for the contest by clicking here.
Date: Sat. Oct. 19 | 1 p.m. EST
Teams: Mercer (5-1) vs. Carnegie Mellon (3-3)
Location: Macon, Ga. | Mercer University Stadium (10,200)
Radio: New Country 96.5 | iHeartRadio
Radio Talent: Rick Cameron (play-by-play), Roger Jackson (Analyst), Craig Lawson (Sideline)
Live Stats: MercerBears.com
Twitter: @MercerFootball | #BearTrax | #BeatCarnegie
Tracking the Carnegie Mellon Tartans
As an established NCAA Division III program, Carnegie Mellon enters Saturday's game having won two of its last three games, including a double overtime 41-34 victory against Geneva. The Tartans are led by head coach Rich Lackner who is closing in 200 career wins, sitting at 184-93-2 in his 28th season with Carnegie Mellon.
The Tartans have struggled in road games in 2013, posting a 1-3 record away from home with their only win coming two weeks ago at St. Vincent. CMU is averaging 33.6 points per game in its three wins, but just 13.6 points per contest in its losses.
Rob Kalkstein eclipsed the 1,000-yard passing mark last Saturday and has eight touchdowns to go along with six interceptions. The Tartans have five players with 100+ rushing yards in 2013, including Troy Witt who leads the group with 336 yards, three touchdowns and 5.2 yards per carry.
Usher Named to Watch List for Jerry Rice Award
In the midst of a remarkable season through the first six weeks of his inaugural collegiate campaign, redshirt freshman Payton Usher has been named to a watch list for the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in the country at the FCS level. (Click here for complete story)
- After holding Valparaiso to just 44 yards rushing last Saturday, the Mercer defense has once again topped the FCS national statistics as the top run defense in the country, allowing just 76.8 yards per game on the ground.
- Josh Jones' 93-yard touchdown reception from John Russ in the second quarter against Valparaiso marked the longest pass reception at the FCS level in 2013 and gave Mercer the lead for good against the Crusaders.
- At 5-1 on the year, Mercer owns the best record of any four-year college or university football team in the state Georgia. Valdosta State is the only other one loss team in the state with a 4-1 record and currently sits as the No. 1 team in the country at the Division II level.
- Three days after being named to the watch list for the Jerry Rice Award as the top FCS freshman in the country, Payton Usher averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 19 attempts. His 109 rushing yards marked his third 100-yard performance of the year as he ranks second in the PFL at 98.7 yards per game.
- John Russ' masterful performance against Valpo of 100 rushing yards, 235 passing yards and four total touchdowns propelled the Bears to their fifth game of 30 or more points. He has now eclipsed the 1,000-yard passing mark and has 16 total touchdowns on the year.
- Robert Brown has quickly established himself as the top target at tight end, after recording four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown last Saturday. The freshman has 14 catches, 186 receiving yards and three receiving scores on the year.
- The average PFL attendance last Saturday was 4,608 and the Bears nearly doubled that number as 8,272 fans entered the gates of Mercer University Stadium. Mercer leads the PFL with an average of 8,990 fans per game, followed by Morehead State at 6,256.
- With Saturday's comeback win against Valpo, Mercer is 5-0 at Mercer University Stadium and the only team in the PFL with a perfect record at home.
- Mercer has forced 11 turnovers on the year, seven of which came in week four against Drake. Since forcing those three fumbles and four interceptions against the Bulldogs, the Bears have come up empty in the turnover department each of the last two games.
- With four solo tackles and seven assisted tackles, Tyler Ward once again led the Mercer defense that gave up just 44 rushing yards and leads the country in yards allowed per game on the ground. He is fifth in the PFL among linebackers with 8.7 tackles per game.
- The Bears continue to pick up chunks of yards on offense and rank No. 8 in the country in rushing offense at 254.5 yards game and No. 17 in the nation in points per game at 37.2.
- Alex Avant's interception return for a touchdown to give Mercer a 17-0 lead on Drake made national headlines and earned the top play on ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10. The highlight was also featured on Yahoo Sports and garnered 30,000 views on You Tube in less than 48 hours.
- Alex Avant's national attention for his interception return is only a glimpse into his performance over the last three weeks. He has 19 total tackles in the last three games, one tackle for loss, an interception and 35-yard return for a score.
Straight from the Lamb - Head Coach Bobby Lamb's Game Week Quotes
On the season at the midway point…
"At the midseason point when you sit back and evaluate what has gone on here our guys just continue to amaze me and compete. You really don't know what kind of team you have until you go up against some good competition and we have played some really good teams the last three weeks in Drake, San Diego and Valpo."
On responding to the slow start against Valpo…
"That first drive looked like we hadn't practiced all week as they went right down the field and scored, but we responded in great fashion. We had scoring drives of 99 yards, 96 yards and 92 yards and that says a lot about our offensive line and our quarterback who made a lot of plays. It ended up being a great day, a great win and we finished the game in fine fashion as well."
On executing the game plan against Valpo…
"Football is about matchups and we thought we could rush the ball well against those guys and we did not do that in the first half. I was really pleased with how we responded in the second half. John Russ had an outstanding day. He is the guy that makes our offense go, but our offensive line really woke up in the second half and we ended up rushing for 287 yards."
On playing Carnegie Mellon…
"This is a critical game in our season. We are sitting here at 5-1 at the midway point and going out of conference to Carnegie Mellon. They run the Wing-T offense and a 3-4 defense and will bring a lot of pressure on defense. The last time we played a Wing-T offense we did not fare very well and that was against Reinhardt in week one. Carnegie Mellon is an established Division III program and they are located in a really good state for high school football. They have a lot of good players and are coached extremely well."
On an undefeated record at home…
"We have an unusual situation this year with eight home games, which is unheard of at Division I FCS. Next year we already have six and are working on a seventh. Once this cycle of the first two startup years runs through then we will be back to six home games one year and five the next and we'll alternate. To have eight home games is big for us. We are 5-1 and have only been on the road once. It is really good for us because we get to stay in our comfort zone and it gives us an advantage on Saturday."