Mercer

Another tough loss for Mercer in Southern Conference opener

Mercer quarterback Kaelan Riley (1) throws the ball downfield during their game against Wofford Saturday.
Mercer quarterback Kaelan Riley (1) throws the ball downfield during their game against Wofford Saturday. jvorhees@macon.com

In 2015, the Mercer Bears dropped a heartbreaking one-point loss to the Wofford Terriers. The Bears once again dropped a heartbreaker to the Terriers in the form of a 28-27 loss Saturday after leading for most of the game.

The Bears jumped out to an early lead after Rashad Haynes took the opening kickoff 90 yards to set up a Kaelan Riley-to-Marquise Irvin touchdown connection.

Riley added two more touchdowns in the first half as he ran for one and threw for another. The Mercer defense held the Terriers to one first-half touchdown.

After Wofford scored coming out of the halftime break, the Bears held the Terriers scoreless for the remainder of the third quarter.

The Bears looked to be running away with the game in the fourth quarter as they tacked on two field goals to make it 27-14 with 8:15 to play.

But the Bears had three turnovers in the final seven minutes, and Wofford took its only lead of the game with 3:34 remaining.

Three who mattered

Avery Ward: After missing the previous five games dating back to last year with injuries, the wideout made quite the comeback. Ward hauled in seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. He will be a big part of the Bears’ game plan going forward as he and Riley continue to build their chemistry.

Riley: The redshirt freshman quarterback played one of the best first halves in Mercer history as he went 11-for-17 for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He had two more passes that should have been touchdowns but were dropped by receivers. Riley’s second half was one that he will want to put behind him quickly as he threw three interceptions in the final two quarters.

Devin Watson: The Wofford defensive back helped seal the victory for the Terriers with great defensive play. The Gainesville product made his presence felt in his home state as he added three tackles along with two interceptions.

Observations

Strong starters: The Bears jumped out early on with a 14-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game. They were able to carry that momentum into the half with another score right before the half. The offense was firing on all cylinders, and the defense held the Terriers to just seven first-half points.

Kings of the return: Chandler Curtis and Haynes each had a long return to set up a score. Curtis has been a weapon for the Bears for the past few seasons in the return game and came close to breaking a punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Haynes opened the game with a 90-yard return as he looks to be a new weapon for the Bears in the return game.

They said it

Coach Bobby Lamb on the loss: “Disappointed in the outcome. First of all, you’ve got to give Wofford credit. As I said at the beginning of the year, all these conference games have come down to the fourth quarter, and they won the fourth quarter.”

Lamb on place-kicker Cole Fisher’s strong performance: “We know that Cole can make field goals and our play calling is pretty aggressive in that area. Cole has been very solid all camp long.”

Lamb on Riley’s play: “If you had asked me at halftime, I would have told you he played great. He threw two of the prettiest deep balls you are ever going to see, and we just dropped them. In the second half, things got a little tighter, and there was more pressure, and they got more pressure on him in his face. He is a redshirt freshman in his first (conference) game.”

Lamb on the next week of preparation: “We are going to make some decisions with the hurricane coming on when we can practice and what we can do, and after that we are headed to Auburn with a game plan. We are going to give it our best shot. We know that Auburn is a really talented team, but our guys aren’t going to shy away from anybody.”

Kyle Williams on the opportunity to play Auburn: “Me personally man it is everything; there is nothing like Saturdays. Honestly, just going out there we just love the game. It don’t matter what opponent we are facing; we are going to give our everything. It is the best time of year.”

What’s next?

Mercer travels to take on Auburn on Saturday.

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