Macon, Ga. - Alex Lakes rushed for 112 yards with two touchdowns and Mercer pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat Western Carolina 38-24 on Saturday in Southern Conference action at Five Star Stadium.
Western Carolina made it a seven-point game with 5:48 to go on Logan Howard's 30-yard field goal. The ensuing kickoff was returned 31 yards by Chandler Curtis and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty set up Mercer on the WCU 40. Seven plays later, Lakes' 2-yard plunge sealed it with 1:53 left.
Bears quarterback John Russ completed 18 of 32 attempts for 224 yards and three touchdowns for Mercer (3-3, 2-2 Southern). Redshirt freshman Tyrie Adams, who did not play much of the first quarter, went 25 of 39 for 384 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Catamounts.
Western Carolina (1-5, 0-4) went up 14-3 midway through the third on freshman tailback Connell Young's 2-yard touchdown run - the first of his collegiate career. But Mercer responded with three straight touchdowns over a two minute span, capitalizing on a pair of Catamount turnovers.
Following Young's TD, Mercer marched 79 yards in 10 plays with Russ dropping a 19-yard pass to tight end Sam Walker to make it 14-10. A roughing the passer penalty moved the ball to midfield on the ensuing kickoff where the Bears sky-kicked and the reception of the kickoff was fumbled giving Mercer the ball at the WCU four-yard line. Lakes did the rest, taking an option pitch to the right side to put the Bears ahead, 17-14.
Just three plays later, LeMarkus Bailey, who recovered the previous fumble for a defensive takeaway, intercepted a deflected pass attempt to set-up a Marquise Irvin's 21-yard scoring catch to make it 24-14.
Adams marched 82 yards in eight plays late in the quarter, gaining ground mostly through the air before Adams hooked up with Terryon Robinson for a 43-yard touchdown pass. Robinson finished with a game-high eight receptions for 106 yards and the score, while Spearman Robinson caught five passes for game-best 131 yards. Freshman TE Aubry Payne hauled in a career-best six passes. Detrez Newsome finished with 177 all-purpose yards in the loss.
Russ hit Curtis for a 5-yard touchdown to put Mercer up 31-21 with 14:46 remaining ahead of the Howard field goal.
All told, WCU committed five turnovers including three fumbles and two interceptions while creating just one takeaway, forcing a fumble on a fake punt attempt by the Bears.
Western Carolina (1-5, 0-4 SoCon) returns to action next Saturday, visiting the nationally-ranked Samford Bulldogs at Seibert Stadium in Birmingham, Ala. Kickoff is set for 7:00 pm ET / 6:00 pm CT and will be televised live on the American Sports Network (@LiveOnASN).