The Mercer Bears pulled out a dramatic walk off win over the Samford Bulldogs by a score of 36-33 in triple overtime.
Mercer jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on kick from kicker Caleb Dowden. The Bears then fell behind after Samford answered with a touchdown and then took the lead with a field goal.
Running back Tyray Devezin answered the score right before half to tie the game 10-10. The Bears and Bulldogs would exchange scores in the third quarter including Devezin’s second touchdown on the night. A missed extra point would leave Samford up 17-16 heading to the fourth quarter.
Samford would extend its lead to 20-16 before Devezin found the end zone for the third time tying the game at 23-23.
With six seconds left, Dowden just missed a field goal that would’ve won the game in regulation.
In overtime, the Bulldogs scored first on a short run by quarterback Chris Oladokun. The Bears answered back with Devezin’s fourth rushing touchdown of the night. It was set-up by a jumping grab from wide receiver Yahsyn McKee.
The two teams traded scores, eventually reaching the third overtime. Samford’s Mitchell Fineran (a former Peach County kicker) missed a short field goal and gave Mercer a chance to win the game. Dowden would redeem himself with the game-winning field goal to seal a 36-33 win.
“After the miss, I know I am going to get another one and when that comes I am going to put it through,” Dowden said. “Thanks to my snapper and holder, I got it done.”
Here are three things we learned from the dramatic game.
1. Sidney Otiwu has a historic night but ends in targeting call
Linebacker Sidney Otiwu broke the record for most tackles in a game in Mercer’s history. He broke Tyler Ward’s record of 18 and finished with 20 for the night.
“We got the W. I am not a stats guy,” Otiwu said. “I am going to tell my kids about it one day.”
Otiwu seemed to be in on nearly every play and was the unquestionable leader against one of the conference’s best offenses. Samford came into the game averaging 37 points per game. The Bears held them to 23 and Otiwu was a big part of that.
However, in overtime the Bears lost Otiwu to a targeting penalty when the Samford quarterback slid and Otiwu was unable to pull up. This will leave him ineligible for the first half of next week’s game.
“He slid and I made contact. If he doesn’t slide it’s over with,” Otiwu said. “Maybe it was best for his safety that he slid so I am going to go with it.”
2. Mercer offense looking better with playmakers getting healthier
Devezin rushed for 4 touchdowns and 130 yards, his best game on the season. Part of the reason for that is the Bears passing offense made Samford pay when they stacked the box to stop Devezin.
He has dealt with ankle injuries for much of the season, but looked to be as close to 100% as he has all season for the Bears. His ability to carry a full load in this game allowed the Bears to grind out a big win over Samford.
“This is the best I have felt since the beginning of the year,” Devezin said. “It is nice. It is a great feeling to get out there to do everything I can to help the team win.”
Wide receiver David Durden’s return from a back injury has been a big boost for the team. His presence was felt all night long as he finished with 3 catches and 63 yards. He opened the field up for Devezin on the ground.
“I think you will see his impact everyday. He draws a lot of attention,” Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb said. “His impact is they have got to double up on him sometimes. That leaves the middle open.”
Durden’s ability to command double coverage allowed McKee to continue to break out as a go-to option for quarterback Kaelan Riley. Mckee finished with 117 yards on 9 catches.
3. Bears looking to play spoiler
The Bears have been eliminated from the Southern Conference title race, but they still have a chance to impact the results. Next week they take on the Wofford Terriers in the final home game of the season. The Terriers are second in the conference behind Furman. Could the Bears spoil Wofford’s chance at a SoCon title?
“It is really just us coming back and having fun,” Devezin said. “We are just trying to have fun and end this season but do it the right way and ruin some team’s hopes.”
Mercer will then take on ETSU in the conference finale. The season finale will take place on the road against an ACC opponent, the North Carolina Tarheels. While they are out of the race for some of their main goals, the Bears still have a chance to gain some momentum heading into the offseason.
“We just want to keep improving. I think we improved in this game. We have lost some close games in this stadium before,” Lamb said. “It is good to beat Samford there in back-to-back years now. We just got to go put a great game plan together and find some healthy bodies to play against Wofford.”