These short takes are presented as an adjunct to the Georgia Tech-Mercer game column, which can be found here. Tech won 35-10.
1. The most troubling sign for Tech’s defense: Mercer held the ball for 29:42. Even when the Jackets lose the game, they often win in time of possession. (In four of their nine losses last season, they held the ball longer their opponent.) Mercer is an FCS program. Tech is a Power Five program that prides itself on its running game, and running teams tend to control the clock. Through three quarters, the Bears were leading in TOP. In all, the Jackets would rush for 364 yards but shade Mercer in possession by all of 36 seconds.
2. How is that possible? Because the Power Five defense couldn’t stop the FCS program on third down. Mercer was 10 for 18 in third-down conversions. (And 1 of 2 on fourth.) Tech didn’t induce a turnover. It managed two sacks for a total of six yards. Mercer scored on a 32-yard pass to take a 7-0 lead but mostly threw underneath if not sideways. No fools, the Bears sought to wrong-foot their bigger and faster opponent with a succession of screens. On their 61-yard drive — that consumed 8:25 — to start the second half, they ran 17 plays. Only one of those gained as many as 10 yards. But Tech’s defenders, as Paul Johnson said, “had a hard time getting off the field.” Against Mercer, we remind you.
3. Full credit to Mercer: This didn’t look like a program starting its fourth season after a 70-year hiatus. Bobby Lamb and his staff appeared to maximize resources, and they trailed only 21-10 deep in the third quarter and appeared to have stopped Tech’s first drive under backup quarterback Matthew Jordan. Tech’s successful fake punt changed the dynamics, but still: Anyone accustomed to seeing Johnson’s offense amass 60 points and 700 yards against FCS opposition had to applaud this effort by the visitors. Oh, and not since 1892 had Mercer hung more than six points on Georgia Tech.