Macon, Ga. – Tyrie Adams amassed a school-record 545 yards of total offense including 360 yards through the air and a career-high 185 yards rushing on Saturday afternoon in a tough road loss as Western Carolina fell to the Mercer Bears, 59-46, at Five Star Stadium.
Adams accounted for four touchdowns – two rushing and a pair of passing TDs – as the Catamounts piled up 710 yards of total offense, finishing one yard shy of the school record set by the Hall of Fame 1969 football team (711 yards vs. Emory & Henry). Along the way, the St. Petersburg, Fla., native moved into second-place in WCU’s career record books with 6,347 career passing yards while closing to within one TD pass of former mentor Troy Mitchell (50, 2012-15) for the program’s career passing touchdown record now with 49 career scores through the air.
Junior tailback Connell Young amassed 178 yards of total offense with six catches for 102 yards and a touchdown, adding 76 rushing yards for the Catamounts. Junior WR Nate Mullen hauled in a career-high 10 passes for 90 yards, adding a late touchdown reception from QB Will Jones, while senior Jordan Mathis had six catches for 95 yards and a score in the loss as seven different receivers caught passes in the offensive explosion.
Held scoreless and to just 66 total yards in the first quarter, Mercer made the right moves in rebounding to finish with over 500 yards of offense over the final three frames. Despite a lop-sided edge in yardage after the opening 15 minutes, the Catamounts led by just one score, 7-0, after the opening frame.
WCU also got a fake field goal touchdown passes from All-American punter Ian Berryman to jump out to the 14-0 first half lead. The Catamounts regained the two-score cushion on a 58-yard pass-and-run from Adams to Young midway through the second quarter to make it 21-7. However, consecutive TD passes from Kaelan Riley to Sam Walker (49 yards) and David Durden (40 yards) tied the game at 21 apiece.
Poised to carry a three-point, 24-21, lead into the halftime locker room after a 36-yard Will Horton field goal, Mercer (4-3, 3-1 SoCon) seized momentum with a 95-yard return for a touchdown by David Durden on the ensuing kickoff. The Catamounts hurry-up offense quickly moved into position in the closing seconds and were aided by a defensive penalty as the half expired. With the one untimed down, WCU was able to tack on a 43-yard Horton field goal before the break to trail by just one, 28-27, at intermission.
All told, the two teams combined for 48 points in a wild second quarter with Mercer scoring all 28 of its first half points in the second stanza.
Including 10-straight points out of the locker room, the Bears were able to outscore the Catamounts in the second half, 31-to-19, capitalizing on an interception and forcing a fumble as WCU was looking to punch in a short-yardage score in the closing moments of the game. Western Carolina was only able to pull back to within five points over the final two quarters, 38-33, on Adams’ first of two rushing scores before the Bears posted 21-straight points to close the third and open the fourth quarter to take a lead they would never relinquish.
WCU’s offense tallied a season-high – and school-record – 35 first downs, supplanting the previous benchmark of 34 set in the home win over Gardner-Webb in 2016.
Mercer QB Kaelan Riley threw for three touchdowns and 294 yards passing for the Bears who finished with 572 yards of offense including 278 yards rushing and 294 yards passing in a balanced attack. Tailback Tee Mitchell ran for 157 yards and a touchdown and had 61 yards and a score receiving while backfield counterpart Tyray Devezin rumbled for 94 yards on just eight touches and two TDs on the ground. Mitchell broke Mercer’s career rushing yardage record in the winning effort, while kicker Cole Fisher broke the school’s career scoring benchmark.
Defensively, senior LB Mitchell Chancey recorded a team-high 11 tackles, stretching his double-digit tackle streak to seven-straight games – each one of the 2018 contests to date. Sophomore DL Ricky Palao recorded the lone tackle for loss for the Catamount defense which entered the game averaging over seven stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Senior Marvin Tillman and sophomore Michael Murphy both tallied six tackles a piece with Murphy nearly coming up with his second interception on the season, while Jacquez Williams forced a fumble to go along with five stops.
Western Carolina (3-4, 1-4 SoCon) travels to Southern Conference co-leader ETSU (6-2, 4-1 SoCon) and William B. Greene Stadium in Johnson City, Tenn., next Saturday, Oct. 27 for a 3:30 pm kickoff. It will be the first meeting between the Catamounts and Buccaneers in the new “Blue Ridge Border Battle” – and the first between the two mountain-rivals at ETSU’s stadium as the rivalry was rekindled two years ago at Bristol Motor Speedway in ETSU’s home game.