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Monday, May 27, 2024
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Mercer football edges past #10 WCU

Al Wooten II '25 carries the ball against Western Carolina University. Wooten was the game's leading rusher with 68 yards and a touchdown as the Bears toppled WCU on Saturday, 45-38.
Al Wooten II '25 carries the ball against Western Carolina University. Wooten was the game's leading rusher with 68 yards and a touchdown as the Bears toppled WCU on Saturday, 45-38.

The Bears upset no. 10 Western Carolina University on Saturday, beating the Catamounts 45-38. The high-scoring game was Mercer’s first victory against a ranked opponent this season, leaving them at a 6-3 overall record, 4-2 in the SoCon. 

The game extended Mercer’s winning streak against WCU to eight games in a row, dating back to the 2016 season.

Mercer’s offense was led by Carter Peevy ‘26, who earned SoCon Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts. Peevy ran for 62 yards in the game, though two sacks negated 38 of his rushing yards. Peevy also tallied two touchdowns with his legs. Peevy passed for 212 yards, going 18-for-28, throwing one touchdown and an interception. 

The Bears had a very strong running game, totalling 210 yards, which is nearly 70 yards more than their season average. The team was led by Al Wooten II ‘25, who had 68 yards and a touchdown in the game. This was Wooten’s best game since Mercer took on VMI at home on Sept. 30. The team’s all-purpose yard leader, Devron Harper ‘24, also had a strong game in the backfield with 51 yards on five carries. 

Ty James ‘24 recorded 115 yards through the air, the highest of any player in the game. James, who leads the FCS in receiving yards, also caught Peevy’s lone touchdown pass. Brayden Smith ‘27 recorded a career-high 56 yards as a receiver, adding 16 yards on the ground.

Coming into the game, the defense was faced with extinguishing a red-hot offense by the Catamounts that average the most points per game in the conference. A stout defensive line held WCU to just 86 total rushing yards. WCU’s running back unit has averaged more than double that figure during the rest of their games this season.

WCU did, however, have success in their passing game. The Catamounts’ quarterback, Cole Gonzales, threw 32 completions for 388 yards. His five touchdown tosses were the most Mercer allowed in a game since they faced Ole Miss in the second contest of the season.

The Bears continued to cause chaos for the other team’s offense in the form of turnovers as Mercer picked off Gonzales three times in the game, as well as forcing and recovering two fumbles from the Catamounts. The Catamounts' five turnovers in the game brings the defense’s total to 15 over the season.

Mic Wasson ‘26 forced his first career fumble on the opening kickoff of the game, handing the Bears’ offense a short-yardage drive that ended with Peevy’s first rushing touchdown. However, Wasson was not done making impact plays on special teams. Later in the first quarter, Christian Davis ‘27 forced another WCU fumble on a kickoff, which was recovered by Wasson, who ran the ball for a 24-yard touchdown scoop-and-score. This was Wasson’s first career touchdown, and Davis’ first career forced fumble.

At a press conference after the game, Head Coach Drew Cronic praised Wasson’s work ethic on special teams.

“Mic Wasson is a great kickoff cover guy, he’s the first one down there and he’s physical. When you hustle, play hard, the ball pops to you. You create your own luck,” Cronic said.

The special teams unit for the Bears was not entirely spotless. Reice Griffith ‘27 went 1-for-3 on field goals. Griffith did hit a career-long 44-yard field goal, but on the season, he has successfully converted only 67% of his field goal tries.

Looking forward, Mercer plays The Citadel, who is winless this season, on Saturday, Nov. 4. They are sitting at a 0-8 season record, and are 0-5 against SoCon competition.

Gabriel Kopp

Gabriel Kopp '26 is majoring in Journalism and Law and Public Policy at Mercer University. He has written for The Cluster since he started at Mercer, and currently works as the Sports Editor. When he isn't studying, he enjoys going for runs and reading the New York Times.

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