Strong finishes for Mercer, Ga. Southern

Georgia Southern's Allen Lee and his teammates had plenty to be excited about after the Eagles defeated Florida. (Getty)

Georgia Southern's Allen Lee and his teammates had plenty to be excited about after the Eagles defeated Florida. (Getty)

Georgia should be proud of two of its FCS teams.

Mercer, a program in its first year since 1941, and Georgia Southern, an established program in its final season in the FCS, both made history on Saturday.

Mercer defeated Stetson to finish 10-2 and set a FCS record for most wins by a startup program. The Bears were 8-0 at home and nearly won the Pioneer Football League and its automatic berth into the FCS playoffs.

Georgia Southern became the first FCS team to ever defeat Florida, shocking the Gators 26-20 behind 429 yards rushing and making folks call for Will Muschamp to be fired.

The Eagles are leaving the Southern Conference to join the FBS-level Sun Belt next year, so the winners of six FCS (or Division I-AA) titles went out with a shot heard around the country.

Much has been made of Florida’s injury situation, but it’s been reported the Eagles have lost 19 scholarship players this season.

That group includes Jerick McKinnon (Sprayberry), who battled injuries and shuttled between fullback and QB after junior FB Dominique Swope (Buford), who had rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, was lost for the year with shoulder injury.

McKinnon, freshman QB Kevin Ellison (Habersham Central) and William Banks (Augusta Christian) accounted for 337 of the Eagles’ yards in a game in which they didn’t complete any of their three pass attempts.

“There was a never a doubt in their minds,” Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said afterward. “We didn’t play a perfect game. We put ourselves in bad situations, but nobody panicked.”

Mercer bounced back from last week’s loss at Marist to beat Stetson — another first-year program — and finish with 10 wins. The Bears were 8-0 at home, a home mark that only Auburn can match, if the Tigers can defeat Alabama on Saturday.

QB John Russ (Mill Creek) was selected as the PFL offensive player of the week after he ran, threw and caught touchdowns in the 41-14 victory.

He finished with 34 total TDs, 1,916 yards passing and 903 yards rushing, and is a contender for the Jerry Rice Award, which goes to the top freshman in the FCS.

Mercer will move to the Southern Conference next year.

14 comments Add your comment

city slicker

November 29th, 2013
8:25 am

not so fast my friends I love both of the GSU’S that’s why I cant wait for this rivary to begin I think they should play his game every thanksgiving and play for “The Georgia Turkey Bowl Trophy”…………….with all that being said I think Ga State will be improved next year, because although, they lose all their games coach miles have the panthers playing tough……….. Ga South will have to adjust to the talent level I see both being middling teams next year both losing a lot of close battles I think 2015 both programs will get right and pj don’t get right at tech tech will become the states 4th most relevant program


November 26th, 2013
5:59 pm

FootballTopFan(c) would like to CONGRATULATE the Georgia Southern Eagles and Mercer Bears on a great season !!!

Eagle Scout

November 25th, 2013
10:11 pm

The Gator tail was excellent on Saturday. Go Eagles!!!! GATA.

Happy for Mercer. Great first year. Bring more FCS titles back to Georgia. Just make sure Coach Lamb doesn’t try to change your colors to purple and white. That would spell trouble.

Andy Johnston

November 25th, 2013
11:57 am

JJ, Albany State was scheduled to play a team from CIAA in the Pioneer Bowl, but that game was canceled. That game had been scheduled for Dec. 7. Also, Tuskegee was the SIAC’s representative in the Div. II playoffs, but lost in the first round on Saturday.