"I expected some stupid mistakes, things we've got to bounce back from," Hammons said.
Mistakes were plentiful in this sloppy season opener.
"We didn't play very well. We shot ourselves in the foot," Monroe coach John Myers said. "But we regrouped and got things going in the second half."
Monroe's offense outgained Mercer's 183 yards to 11 in the second half. Much of the damage was done in the third quarter, when the Falcons scored twice in just over two minutes to pull away from a 7-7 tie.
Scotties never reached Monroe territory in second half
Mercer couldn't respond, as the Scotties never moved into Monroe territory after halftime. In fact, the Scotties gleaned nearly three-quarters of their net offensive yardage on a single play, Andrew McCloud's 62-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Mercer had 70 yards on its offensive ledger after McCloud's touchdown, but it netted only 14 more after that.
McCloud finished with 108 yards on 12 carries, but he had 83 of them in the first quarter.
"The play he scored on, I really thought we had him wrapped up," Myers said. "He's an outstanding runner, and we knew in order for us to win we had to at least slow him down."
Once Monroe slowed down McCloud, there wasn't much the Mercer offense could do. Quarterback Michael Bottoms, a sophomore making his first start, was sacked six times by Monroe and he completed only one of 12 passes.
"They had a young quarterback, and we wanted to get some pressure on him. We were able to do that and have a little success," Myers said.
Mercer graduated its entire offensive line
Mercer graduated its entire offensive line after last season, so Hammons said he knew Bottoms would be feeling the heat.
"He's going to take some beatings," Hammons said. "That's understandable, and that's something we'll get better at.
"It's just going to be a timing thing. We've got a new quarterback, a new offensive line and new receivers, and this is the first time they've been on the field together other than a scrimmage."
Monroe tied the game late in the first quarter on the first of two touchdown passes by Daniel Harlan when Dillan Bartley got behind McCloud to make the catch on a 39-yard scoring play.
The Falcons drove to the Mercer 2-yard line in the second quarter, but they came away empty-handed when John Lyons pushed Bartley back for a 9-yard loss on fourth-and-goal.
But they didn't fail on their first possession of the second half, marching 60 yards in six plays. A 32-yard run by Bartley to the Mercer 8 set up Harlan's second touchdown pass.
Bottoms threw an interception two plays later, putting Monroe back in business on its own 49-yard line. Harlan then hit a wide-open Clifton Hamilton over the middle for a 48-yard gain to set up Harlan's 1-yard scoring run.
Monroe's 182 rushing yards were divided primarily among Harlan, Bartley and fullback Justin Graves, with Graves leading the way with 87 yards on 11 carries.
The fourth quarter was about four minutes old before Mercer got its first first down of the second half, ending a string of 29 minutes without a first down.
"I'm so tickled about our attitude," Hammons said. "They never stopped the entire game, even at the end when it would've taken a miracle for us to win it."
The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 19 minutes due to lightning in the area.