Mercer senior quarterback Fred Payton tossed two touchdown passes to Ty James in the third quarter to lift the Bears over the Citadel 17-0 at Five Star Stadium on Saturday night.
Defense and missed opportunities were the names of the game in the first half. Both teams squandered opportunities after long drives.
The Citadel received an early gift when a punt squibbed through the hands of Mercer punt returner Devron Harper. Destin Mack recovered the fumble inside the Bears’ 5.
Mercer safety Shi’heem Watkins stripped the ball from Bulldogs running back Sam Llewellyn inside the 1. Cornerback TJ Moore recovered the fumble in the end zone.
The turnover ignited a small flame. Payton guided the offense converting third and 16hit with a 28-yard pass to Harper in the middle of the field. Harper picked up 28 yards on the play. The 76-yard drive came to a halt 3 plays later after picking up only 3 more yards. Mercer came up empty on the drive as Devin Folser’s 42-yard field goal attempt missed wide right.
A fumble recovery by the defense gave the Bulldogs a similar drive and scoring opportunity in the second quarter. Dominick Poole recovered a fumble by Bears running back Al Wooten at the Bulldogs’ 10. Derrick Peyton mounted the Bulldogs’ best drive of the game behind the Bears’ missed opportunity.
Peyton used three passes to complement the Bulldogs’ rushing attack. After allowing seventeen plays and 70 yards, the Bears’ defense bowed up sacking Peyton for a 5-yard loss to force a 36-yard field goal attempt. The kick from Jay Smith missed wide right as the first half came to a close.
Before that drive, the Bears limited the Bulldogs’ offense to 45 yards. Head coach Drew Cronic credited the physical play from the defense.
“I think we did a good job of getting them (Citadel) off schedule,” said Head Coach Drew Cronic. “They had a lot of second and longs. Some lost-yardage plays. That’s when you are getting them out of their comfort zone.”
Mercer opened the second half with a five-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by James’ first touchdown. A 22-yard run by Austin Douglas followed by a 24-yard reception by James opened the door. The Bears’ no-huddle did the rest. Payton connected with James on the quick slant in the middle of the endzone.
Payton went back to James two series later. This time, James ran by the Bulldogs’ secondary for a 63-yard touchdown. The redshirt sophomore finished the game with 138 yards on 7 receptions.
Austin Douglas led all rushers with 81 yards on 11 carries.
Sophomores Isaac Dowling and Savio Frazier led the defensive charge for the Bears. Dowling finished with 17 tackles and a sack. Frazier amassed 10 stops and a sack.
Mercer goes on the road to face Gardner Webb in Boiling Springs, NC.
Game Photo Gallery
All photos credit Jason McDonald, JM Photography for CORE360 Sports