MACON, Ga. (AP) — Quay Holmes ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns and also caught a pass for a score as East Tennessee State continued to win close games with a 21-18 victory over Mercer in Southern Conference action on Saturday.
The Buccaneers (8-2, 6-1), ranked 23rd in the FCS coaches poll, posted their sixth conference win by a combined 16 points. Randy Sanders set a school record for a first-year coach with his eighth win of the season. ETSU is 8-2 overall for the first time since 1992 and has six SoCon wins for the first time since 1996. The Buccaneers had never won five games by three points or less in a single season in their 84-year history.
The Bears (4-5, 3-3) grabbed a 7-0 lead on Tyray Devezin's 1-yard plunge on the last play of the first quarter. ETSU pulled even when Austin Herink connected with Homes for a 6-yard TD early in the second quarter. After Mercer regained the lead on Cole Fisher's 24-yard field goal, Holmes found the end zone on a 1-yard dive to give the Bucs a 14-10 halftime lead.
Mercer closed to within 14-12 when Bradley Earnest sacked Herink in the end zone for a safety with 3:36 gone in the third quarter and grabbed a 15-14 lead on Fisher's 41-yard field goal three minutes later. The tide turned for ETSU when Artevius Smith picked off Harrison Frost and returned it 26 yards to the Mercer 20-yard line. Four plays later Holmes scored on a 5-yard run for a 21-15 lead. Fisher's 24-yard field goal with 9:36 left to play capped the scoring.
Devezin finished with 113 yards on 29 carries for Mercer.