Three weeks ago, the Mercer Bears were reeling after three straight losses, including two in Southern Conference play when they blew double-digit fourth-quarter leads.
Now, the Bears are rolling after their third straight conference win Saturday as they controlled Chattanooga 30-10 at Five Star Stadium.
The Mercer defense was dominant throughout, holding the Mocs to 250 yards and 14 first downs. Offensively, Mercer shook off a slow start to score 23 unanswered points after Chattanooga opened the scoring with a field goal on the first play of the second quarter.
Mercer improves to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the conference, while Chattanooga falls to 1-6 and 1-3.
Five who mattered
Kaelan Riley: The redshirt freshman continues to impress, completing 20-of-27 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Chandler Curtis: The senior had eight catches for 77 yards, including a touchdown.
Isaiah Buehler: The junior had five tackles and a sack.
Lee Bennett: The senior had seven tackles after recording a career-high 16 last week against The Citadel.
Stephen Houzah: The junior matched Bennett with seven tackles .
After Victor Ulmo gave Chattanooga the lead with a 43-yard field goal to open the second quarter, Mercer responded and went right down the field in just 1:22 with a four-play, 66-yard drive. Riley connected with Marquise Irvin on a 33-yard touchdown to give the Bears the lead. It was Irvin’s 12th career touchdown.
Struggles on the ground: Mercer moved the ball nicely through the air and got short touchdown runs from CJ Leggett and Tee Mitchell, but the Bears didn’t do much on the ground. Mercer rushed for 84 yards on 35 carries, an average of 2.4 yards per carry.
More rushing game struggles: Chattanooga was dominated up front by the Mercer defensive front. The Mocs had 25 carries for just 44 yards.
Another turnover: Mercer, which leads the Southern Conference in turnover ratio and turnovers forced and ranks fifth in the nation in turnovers forced, added another turnover with a Malique Fleming interception.
A conference first: Mercer’s three-game winning streak is its first such streak in conference play. It is also is Mercer’s first overall three-game winning streak since the 2014 season.
A conference best: The 10 points Mercer allowed set a low for the team in conference play. The previous low was 13 against East Tennessee State in 2016.
Another strong day: Mercer leads the conference in scoring defense, and the Bears’ defense has allowed just 38 points in the three-game winning streak.
Mercer travels to Furman on Saturday.