MACON, Ga. – Mercer fell to No. 10 (Coaches/STATS) Wofford, 28-27, despite taking a 14-point lead into halftime in front of a record crowd of 12,727 at Five Star Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Bears (1-1, 0-1 Southern Conference) owned a 27-14 advantage with eight minutes and 15 seconds remaining in the contest, but the nationally ranked Terriers (2-0, 2-0 SoCon) rallied with a pair of late touchdowns that clinched their first lead of the contest en route to the road win.
Wofford cut Mercer’s lead to 27-21 with six minutes and 18 seconds remaining in the contest as they drove 76 yards on six plays. The touchdown drive was in response to consecutive field goal drives by Mercer and keyed the beginning of Wofford’s 14-point rally.
It Was Over When
Kaelan Riley was picked off for the second straight drive with one minute left in the game, ending Mercer’s final shot at coming away with the win in its first conference contest of the year.
Avery Ward started off his senior season in style, notching six receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown after missing Mercer’s last five games dating back to last season. It was Ward’s fourth 100-yard game of his career. The touchdown reception was the 12th of his career, tying him with Chandler Curtis and former Bear JT Palmer (2013-14) for most in program history.
Fellow senior Kyle Williams totaled 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack to lead the defensive charge for the Bears. Williams’ sack was the first by Mercer this season.
How It Happened
A fast start by the Bears propelled them to a 14-point lead after roughly nine minutes of play. Kaelan Riley connected with Marquise Irvin and Avery Ward for seven- and 15-yard passing touchdowns as Mercer exposed the Wofford secondary early.
Both squads traded touchdown drives in the second quarter via the ground game. Wofford’s Lennox McAfee scampered for a 33-yard score early in the frame, only to be countered by a one-yard punch-in by Riley with 21 seconds remaining in the first half. The Bears’ final score of the half was set up by 32-yard reception by Tee Mitchell out of the backfield that led to a first-and-goal situation.
Wofford opened the second half with a 57-yard touchdown run by McAfee, cutting Mercer’s lead to seven points. However, Mercer’s defense redeemed itself soon after with a turnover on downs at its own one-yard line, proving to be one of the game’s key turning points.
Mercer caught a break deep in its own territory when Wofford was called for roughing the kicker as punter Grant Goupil was clipped in the end zone. Two plays later, Riley connected with Ward for a 41-yard reception that would eventually set up a 32-yard field goal by Cole Fisher. A 51-yard punt return by Curtis shortly after set up another field goal by Fisher – a 34-yarder – to give Mercer a 27-14 advantage with 8:15 remaining in the game.
The Terriers would storm back behind a 10-yard touchdown run by Andre Stoddard that capped a 76-yard drive. The score was followed by a fumble recovery by Wofford as Ward was stripped at Mercer’s own 25. Wofford took its first lead of the game, 28-27 with a two-yard score by Blake Morgan and the extra point with 3:34 left. Mercer had two shots at rallying for the win but saw both drives end in interceptions by the Wofford defense.
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