The Mercer Bears (2-2) took on conference rival The Citadel (1-2). The Bears left with a heartbreaking loss 38-31 to the Bulldogs. It was a tough defeat for the Mercer program. Here are our three takeaways from Mercer’s loss to the Citadel.
1. Big plays become Mercer’s undoing
For 90 percent of the game, Mercer was the better team. However, a small percentage of plays cost them a win in the Southern Conference. The Bears were up 17-7 with 15 seconds to play in the first half when the Citadel hit them with a 77-yard pass down the seam for a touchdown. Mercer had just had a tough call go against them when a Citadel running back fumbled the ball but was ruled down despite every angle showing that the ball seemed to be already out. This was a big swing in momentum. Mercer senior linebacker Isaiah Buehler said that they may have gotten too hyped up for the following play and that caused the lapse in coverage. The Bears then allowed a 98-yard kickoff return with 57 seconds left in a tied game, allowing Citadel to go ahead.
2. More questions than answers at quarterback again
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Telegraph
Robert Riddle threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns. He had an impressive outing overall. Head coach Bobby Lamb said that he made some freshman mistakes but played well for the most part. With less than 20 seconds in the game though, tragedy struck. Riddle was hit hard after he threw the ball and went down to the ground holding his shoulder. Riddle left for the last two plays of the game. He was sent for X-rays on his shoulder, Lamb said. Kaelan Riley, the former starter, was forced into action and was sacked on both of his plays. Lamb seemed to be comfortable with moving forward with Riley if Riddle were to be out for an extended period of time.
3. The Bears still struggle to close games
In the third quarter, Mercer scored to go up 24-14 by driving down the field coming out of half time. At that point, it appeared Mercer had finally figured out how to win a close game. Then the fourth quarter happened. The Bears were once again outscored when the game mattered the most. Mercer will need to show that it can win these tough games in order to shake that notion.
The Bears will face off against VMI next week. The big things going forward will be finishing games and the health of Robert Riddle.