By Carey Phillips
Mercer jumped to a 21-0 lead Saturday and went on to a 45-28 Southern Conference football victory over Western Carolina at Mercer’s Five Star Stadium.
Nakendrick Clark carried 23 yards for 92 yards and two touchdowns for the Bears. Carter Peevy completed 10 of 22 passes for 118 yards and a TD to Ty James, who had four catches for 73 yards.
Donnavan Spencer led the Catamounts (1-7, 1-4) with 80 yards and three TDs on 12 rushing attempts. Ryan Glover completed 16 of 30 passes for 87 yards with an interception. Calvin Jones had five receptions for 45 yards.
Special teams play set up three of WCU’s TDs.
Clark opened the scoring with a 2-yard run on his team’s first possession. Brandon Marshall started the 75-yard drive with consecutive runs of 17 and 18 yards, and Peevy completed passes of 18 yards to James and 14 yards to Deondre Johnson. Caleb Dowden kicked the first of his six extra points for a 7-0 lead with 9:45 to play in the first quarter.
Fred Davis’ 4-yard run ended a 71-yard drive in 14 plays for a 14-0 Mercer lead with 1:52 on the clock.
Spencer was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 from his 34 setting up the Bears’ next score. Clark had a 14-yard run before Peevy scored from a yard out for a 21-0 margin with 9:49 remaining in the half.
Devin Foster’s 56-yard kickoff return put Western in business at the 32. Glover scored from the 1, and the first of Richard McCollum’s four PATs cut the gap to 21-7 at the 7:44 mark.
Quintin Tally blocked a punt giving the Cats the ball at the 30. Aided by three penalties, they reached the 1 before Spencer scored bringing his team within 21-14 with 5:32 on the clock.
Mercer marched 90 yards in 11 plays for a 28-14 halftime lead after Davis scored from a yard out with 18 seconds to play.
After an exchange of punts to start the second half, the Bears drove 86 yards in 15 plays. Clark scored on a 5-yard run for a 35-14 lead with 5:41 to go in the third period.
Glover’s 17-yard run and his 21-yard pass to Jakobe Quillen highlighted a 79-yard drive in 11 plays. Spencer scored from the 3 leaving the deficit 35-21 at the 2:26 mark.
Peevy’s 19-yard TD pass to James extended the margin to 42-21 with 11:42 left in the game.
WCU needed just 21 seconds to score. Calvin Jones returned the kickoff 44 yards, and Spencer raced 53 yards on the next play making it 42-28.
Dowden completed the scoring with a 45-yard field goal at the 4:18 mark.
Ty Harris and Roman Johnson both had 11 tackles for Western, and Dorian Davis was in on 10.
Pu’u Robinson had 11 tackles for Mercer.
Western will travel to East Tennessee for a 1 p.m. game Saturday. The Buccaneers are 2-1 with all three games in the conference.
They defeated Citadel 28-21 a week after the Cats stopped the Bulldogs 21-14. Both teams lost to Furman with ETSU falling 17-13 and WCU losing 35-7. The Bucs downed Samford 24-17, while the Cats lost to Samford 55-27.
Tyler Riddell is the quarterback for Coach Randy Sanders’ team. Quay Holmes is the top rusher. Western has a 25-23-1 edge in the series and won the last meeting 23-20 in overtime.