Turnovers Prove Costly In Football’s Loss At Mercer
MACON, Ga. - Seven costly turnovers hampered the Drake University football team in a 31-17 loss to Mercer on Saturday afternoon in the Pioneer Football League opener for both teams.
Drake faced an early 17-0 deficit, but rallied in the second half for the second straight week to pull within a score at 24-17 before a 62-yard Mercer touchdown and the Bulldogs’ seventh turnover sealed the victory for the Bears.
“It’s nearly impossible to win when you turn the ball over and hats off to Mercer,” Drake head coach Chris Creighton said. “When there’s takeaways, the other team is responsible for forcing those just as much as we are for giving it up. So credit Mercer’s defense.”
Offensively, Drake (1-3, 0-1 PFL) outgained Mercer (4-0, 1-0 PFL), 342-333 yards, but the turnovers, including three in Mercer territory, kept the Bulldogs’ scoring at bay. Of the team’s seven turnovers, three led to Mercer scoring drives.
Junior quarterback Andy Rice (Stevens Point, Wis.) was 21-of-34 passing for 273 yards with two touchdowns, but also had four interceptions in the loss. Grahm Butler (Brock, Neb.) was his favorite target on the day with seven catches for 72 yards and a touchdown while Nick Rosa (Owasso, Okla.) had four catches for 90 yards with a 67-yard touchdown reception.
Defensively, John Hugunin (Oswego, Ill.) led Drake with 10 tackles, two of them behind the line of scrimmage.
The afternoon got off to an ominous start for the Bulldogs as the offense marched down to the Mercer 21 on their first drive, but Gary Scott, Jr., (Forsyth, Ill.) fumbled the ball as Drake tried to put points on the board. The defense erased that turnover, but two series later a Rice interception led to a 37-yard Mercer field goal.
Another fumble on Drake’s first possession of the second quarter gave Mercer its second score when quarterback John Russ scampered 44-yards to the end zone. An interception on Drake’s ensuing possession was returned by Mercer’s Alex Avant 35 yards to put the Bears up, 17-0.
“Sometimes that’s just a result of the little things and a football team has to be disciplined with the little things,” Creighton said of the errors that led to the early turnovers. “When you face a good football team, those things are exposed.”
Later in the quarter, a Mercer miscue put the Bulldogs on the board. Dustin Davis (Council Bluffs, Iowa) picked off a pass for the second straight game and two plays later Rice found Rosa down the near sideline for the 67-yard touchdown strike. That 17-7 score would hold up through halftime and two series into the third quarter until Mercer tacked on another touchdown to go up, 24-7.
Drake immediately responded with a six-play, 65-yard scoring drive on its next possession that was capped by a 7-yard Rice-to-Butler connection. Two series later, Ben Tesson (Fenton, Mo.) added a 24-yard field goal to cut into the Mercer lead and pull Drake within a score at 24-17.
Unfortunately any momentum gained was immediately reversed as the second play of the next Mercer drive was a 62-yard touchdown pass from Russ to a wide open Josh Jones. Drake’s last attempt to cut into that 31-17 lead with 2:31 left was quickly ended by the team’s final turnover of the day, an interception, to allow Mercer to run out the clock.
The Bulldogs return to action next weekend against PFL rival Jacksonville at Drake Stadium. Kickoff for the homecoming matchup against the Dolphins is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5.