November 05, 20161st2nd3rd4thFinal
2nd Quarter
MERTD10:23Robert Brown 10 Yd Pass From John Russ (Cole Fisher kick)
3rd Quarter
ETSUFG08:56JJ Jerman 33 Yd
ETSUTD07:24Drake Powell 69 Yd Pass From Austin Herink (JJ Jerman kick)
ETSUFG00:45JJ Jerman 32 Yd
4th Quarter
MERTD13:16Marquise Irvin 33 Yd Pass From John Russ (Cole Fisher kick)
MERTD05:00Chandler Curtis 4 Yd Pass From John Russ (Cole Fisher kick)
Stats at a GlanceETSUMER
1st Downs1717
3rd Down Conversions8-198-18
4th Down Conversions0-11-1
Passing (Comp-Att)267 (25-38) 172 (17-29)
Rushing (Att)105 (34) 195 (45)
Total Yards372367
Fumbles Lost02
ETSU drops heartbreaker at Mercer, 21-13
Paul Hunter (#31) with Ryan Powers (#14) go in for a tackle on Saturday at Mercer. Photo Credit: Joe Avento/Johnson City Pres
ETSU drops heartbreaker at Mercer, 21-13
Saturday, November 5, 2016

Bears rally with 14 unanswered points to post comeback win

MACON, Ga. (Nov. 5, 2016) – Despite taking a 13-7 lead into the fourth quarter, the ETSU football team couldn’t hang on as Mercer struck for 14 unanswered points to rally for a 21-13 win over the Buccaneers on Saturday evening at Five Star Stadium. 

After suffering a 52-0 loss to Mercer in a non-conference a year ago, the Blue and Gold showed a tremendous amount of fight and growth a year later. The Bucs went toe-to-toe with the Bears for all 60 minutes and took a big step forward in Southern Conference play. 

Overall, ETSU out-gained the Bears, 372-367, and held Mercer to seven points in the first 45-plus minutes, but red-shirt senior John Russ – one of the top quarterbacks in the conference – went 6-of-9 for 65 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to ignite the comeback. The Bucs passed for 267 yards and rushed for 105, while the Bears ran for 195 yards and threw for 172. 

Russ’ third touchdown came with five minutes remaining to put Mercer ahead by eight – and despite the Buccaneer offense going three-and-out on the ensuing possession – ETSU’s defense made another stop to give Austin Herink (Cleveland, Tenn.) and company one final chance to tie the game. After starting the drive at its own 10-yard line, Herink helped direct the offense to Mercer’s 32 before his pass to the end zone was intercepted by defensive back Eric Jackson with less than 10 seconds remaining. On the final pass play, Jeremy James tipped the pass - which was intended for Kobe Kelley (Knoxville, Tenn.) - then kicked it up in the air to allow for Jackson to get there for the interception. 

With the setback, ETSU moved to 3-6, 1-6 in conference play, while Mercer – who was playing on Homecoming – improved to 5-4, 3-3. 


Second Quarter

  • Mercer 7, ETSU 0: After both defenses matched punches in the first quarter, the Bears struck first as John Russ connected on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Robert Brown on a 3rd-and-6 play to cap an 11-play, 47-yard drive in just under six minutes … The two key plays on the drive were an 11-yard completion on 3rd-and-12 at the ETSU 26, which set up a 1-yard run by Russ on fourth down. 

Third Quarter

  • Mercer 7, ETSU 3: The Buccaneer defense forced a turnover on Mercer’s opening possession of the second half and ETSU turned it into points as JJ Jerman (Seymour, Tenn.) connected on a 33-yard field with 8:56 remaining in the quarter. The key play of the drive came when Austin Herink found Dalton Ponchillia (Nashville, Tenn.) for a 26-yard gain on 3rd-and-4. The reception moved the ball inside the Mercer 25, which set up the Jerman field goal.
  • ETSU 10, Mercer 7: After ETSU’s defense forced the Bears to punt for the sixth time of the afternoon, the Bucs’ offense struck in a hurry as Herink connected on a 69-yard touchdown pass to Drake Powell (Clinton, Tenn.) on the opening play of the drive to take their first lead of the game. The play was marked ETSU’s longest pass since restarting the program, while it was Powell’s first collegiate touchdown.
  • ETSU 13, Mercer 7: For the third straight drive, the Bucs put points on the board as JJ Jerman capped a 10-play, 57-yard drive on his 32-yard yard field with 4:52 remaining in the quarter. ETSU picked up three first downs on the drive, while junior offensive lineman Alex Rios (Tucson, Ariz.) kept it alive with a key fumble recovery. Herink was 6-of-6 on the drive, which included an 18-yard completion to Powell on the first play.

Fourth Quarter

  • Mercer 14, ETSU 13: The Bears responded with a scoring drive of their own as John Russ found Marquise Irvin for a 33-yard touchdown reception with 13:16 remaining in the quarter. Mercer used nine plays to cover 73 yards in just over two minutes.
  • Mercer 21, ETSU 13: Mercer executed another long scoring drive as the Bears went 85 yards on 14 plays, which was capped by a four-yard touchdown pass to Chandler Curtis. The Bears converted on four third down chances on the drive, including a 22-yard run by Russ on 3rd-and-4 from their own 21. ETSU also committed two penalties on the drive –pass interference and offside. 


Austin Herink finished 25-of-37 for 267 yards, one touchdown and one interception … Herink set a career high for completions and tied a career high for passing attempts … His 267 passing yards were two shy of tying a career high. 

ETSU’s defense forced a pair of fumble recoveries … The Bucs have forced at least one turnover in seven of their nine games this season, while the Blue and Gold have forced two turnovers in three straight games … Sophomore linebacker Austin Gatewood (Ooltewah, Tenn.) forced the first fumble and Dylan Weigel (Pickerington, Ohio) recovered the ball on a 19-yard run by John Russ … Russ also fumbled in the third quarter and sophomore defensive lineman Chris Bouyer (Rock Hill, S.C.) recovered the loose ball. 

Weigel and fellow sophomore Trey Quillin (New Albany, Ohio) both tallied 11 tackles each, while graduate defensive back Ryan Powers (Jupiter, Fla.) finished with a game-high 12 … Weigel now has now recorded double-digit tackles in 15 of his first 20 games, while Quillin’s 11-tackle effort set a new career high … Powers posted his third double-digit tackle game of the season and moved his career total to six (three at ETSU/three at Stetson) … Gatewood and River Boruff (Sparta, Tenn.) ended with seven tackles each, while seven players accounted for ETSU’s six tackles for loss. 

Freshman JD Griffin (Kodak, Tenn.) and redshirt junior Ferguierson Charles (Fort Myers, Fla.) both registered a sack for the Blue and Gold. 

Drake Powell finished with a career-high 143 receiving yards and became the first Buccaneer player to have a 100-yard receiving game since Sept. 26, 2015 when Dalton Ponchillia had 117 against Emory & Henry … Powell’s 69-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter marked the first of his collegiate career, while it was also ETSU’s longest play since restarting football a year ago. 

Herink completed passes to eight different players as Ponchillia tied a career high with five receptions, while Hunter Wike (Canton, N.C.) and Kobe Kelley both finished with three receptions. 

JJ Jerman made two of his three field goal attempts and extended his streak of consecutive PAT makes to 38 straight to start his career … Jerman made 32 and 33-yard attempts, but missed on a 19-yard try in the second quarter ... The Blue and Gold drove the ball 43 yards, but Herink was stopped at the 2-yard line after a 4-yard run on second down and Matt Thompson (Morristown, Tenn.) was stuffed at the one on his third down run; however, Jerman’s field goal try was wide left. 

To go with his 172 yards passing and three touchdowns, Russ also rushed for a game-high 91 yards for the Bears … Sophomore wide receiver Marquise Irvin, senior tight end Robert Brown and junior wide receiver Chandler Curtis all recorded touchdown receptions … Irvin led Mercer’s receivers with eight catches for 86 yards.

Eric Jackson led the Bears with 11 tackles and registered his first collegiate interception to end the game. 

Saturday’s attendance was 10,913 on Mercer’s Homecoming. 


ETSU returns home to host Cumberland on Saturday, Nov. 12 for Homecoming … Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Kermit Tipton Stadium. 


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