The Bears left Macon on Saturday and took the drive up to Cullowhee, North Carolina for a showdown against the Western Carolina University Catamounts. Mercer would win the game by a score of 34-24.
The Bears have been strong this season, having lost only one game against the University of Alabama. Mercer was 2-0 in conference play heading into Saturday’s game.
The Catamounts came into Saturday’s game 0-5 after sustaining crushing defeats against both Oklahoma and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. WCU’s other losses, however, were by no more than eight points between games against Eastern Kentucky University, Samford University and Gardner-Webb University.
The Bears were a -15.5 point favorite heading into the game according to bettingpros.com. Mercer was headed into a “trap game,” as they were favored to win against the clearly inferior WCU but couldn’t let their guard down for even a moment.
The Bears stayed focused and came roaring out of the gate. The Catamounts were having a decent opening drive and traveled about 27 yards before a fumble flipped the momentum. WCU quarterback Carlos Davis had completed a pass to running back Kenny Benjamin when Mercer safety Lance Wise forced the turnover. Mercer capitalized on the play, leading a 54-yard drive capped off by quarterback Fred Payton tossing a touchdown to Parker Wroble.
The Bears and Catamounts both stalled and punted on their next couple of drives before Mercer found the end zone once again. The following drive saw the Bears fall into a 3rd and 18 hole, but running back Brandon Marshall burst forward for a 38 yard gain to keep the drive alive. Running back Fred Davis capped off the drive with a 27-yard touchdown rush.
The Catamounts finally scored with 4:36 to go in the first quarter behind a touchdown rush from Benjamin. Mercer answered quickly with another Davis touchdown rush before the half. The score was 21-7 going into halftime.
The Bears looked well equipped to handily beat the spread, but WCU scored two touchdowns and a field goal against Mercer’s one field goal to bring the score to an even 24-24 at the end of the third quarter.
In danger of blowing their strong lead, the Bears’ defense locked in to close the game out. It started with an interception by Tremain Moore followed by another interception from Wise. On the backs of those defensive plays, Mercer scored a touchdown and a field goal to push the score to 34-24. The Bears forced a turnover on downs to end the game.
Mercer returns home Oct. 16 to take on VMI to extend their 3-0 conference lead.
Keith Holmes Jr. ‘22 is a journalism and creative writing double major who has worked with The Cluster as general staff since his Sophomore year. Keith has received Best in SNO awards for his sports articles along with years of work at Mercer’s ESPN3 branch. Keith spends his free time playing video games and writing fiction around campus.