Mercer scored two touchdowns in the first three and a half minutes Saturday and built a 41-14 halftime lead before coasting to a 49-27 Southern Conference win over Western Carolina in the football season opener.
A crowd of 10,542 at E.J. Whitmire Stadium/Bob Waters Field saw Tyrie Adams become WCU’s career leader in total offense and passing yards. He entered the game needed 8 yards of total offense and 75 yards passing to surpass the totals of Troy Mitchell. Adams completed 25 of 38 passes for 318 yards and added 34 yards rushing.
Deondre Johnson led the Bears’ rushing game with 11 carries for 114 yards. Tyray Devezin had 84 yards in 14 attempts.
Robert Riddle completed 11 of 23 passes for 207 yards. David Durden caught three passes for 106 yards.
Syheam McQueen was Western’s top rusher with 67 yards in 11 tries.
D.J. Thorpe, Daquan Patten and Owen Cosenke all caught six passes. Thorpe had 130 yards, followed by Patten with 74 and Cosenke with 63.
Mercer started the game with an 82-yard kickoff return by Durden. Three plays later, Riddle completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Devezin. Caleb Dowden kicked the first of his seven extra points for a 7-0 lead with 13:35 to play in the first quarter.
Special teams came up big again for the Bears as Tucker Cannon had a 38-yard punt return. Two plays later, Riddle completed a 32-yard TD pass to Durden for a 14-0 advantage with 11:39 on the clock.
The Catamounts narrowed the deficit to 14-7 with 1:53 to go in the opening period when John Brannon intercepted Riddle’s pass and returned it 23 yards for a score. Richard McCollum kicked the extra point.
On the first play after a punt, Riddle unloaded an 85-yard scoring pass to Cannon for a 21-7 margin with 14:39 remaining in the half.
Mercer had another quick strike as Johnson broke loose on a 64-yard TD run two plays after a punt for a 28-7 lead at the 10:31 mark.
Following an exchange of punts, WCU went 61 yards in just four plays. Adams started the drive with a 21-yard pass to Thorpe and capped it with a 33-yard pass to Patten narrowing the deficit to 28-14 with 6:07 on the clock. Will Horton kicked the extra point.
Riddle completed a 63-yard pass to Durden, who was caught at the 1. Devezin scored on the next play extending the lead to 35-14 at the 4:42 mark.
B.J. Bohler intercepted Adams’ pass and had a 23-yard return to the 3. Riddle tossed a 1-yard TD pass to Chris Ellington with 2:40 on the clock giving the Bears a 42-14 advantage with 2:40 on the clock.
A 16-yard run by McQueen and Adams’ 14-yard pass to Patten put the Cats in position for Horton’s 40-yard field goal attempt on the first possession of the second half, but the kick was wide right.
Mercer scored its final TD by driving 77 yards in nine plays. Riddle completed an 11-yard pas to Durden, and Devezin scored n a 38-yard run for a 49-14 lead with 7:14 to play in the third stanza.
Western put together two long scoring drives to make the final more respectable.
Adams’ 5-yard pass to Cosenke ended a 75-yard march in 13 plays leaving the deficit 49-21 after Horton’s PAT with 1:13 left in the third quarter. The drive included Adams passes of 10 yards to Cosenke, 13 yards to Tyler Mitchell and 14 yards to Patten.
After a punt, the Cats drove 74 yards in 10 plays. Adams completed passes of 10 and 16 yards to Cosenke and 19 yards to Thorpe. Adams scored from the 5, but a conversion pass failed leaving the score 49-27 with 8:27 to play.
WCU nearly got on the board again after a 41-yard pass from Adams to Thorpe at the 4. However, Connell Young fumbled, at the 1, and Darien Wiggins had an 18-yard return to the 19.
Sidney Otiwu was in on 10 tackles for the Bears.
Trevor Childers led Western with 10 tackles.