Thursday, July 5, 2018

2018 Football Preseason Preview: Mercer

Throughout this preseason, Purple & Gold will preview all of Western Carolina's 2018 football opponents.

In the Cat's seventh game of the season and the first of two back to back road games, the Cats travel to Macon, GA  to play the Mercer Bears.

Western faces the Bears for just the fifth time since Mercer joined the Southern Conference.


When: Saturday, October 6th at 4:00 pm

Where: Five Star Stadium, Macon, GA

Radio: Catamount Sports Network

TV / video: ESPN3 or ESPN+

Games that will be played by the Bears this season prior to the WCU contest:  (6 games) The Bears kick off the season in Memphis. TN against the Memphis Tigers, before returning home against the Pioneer League's Jacksonville. The Bers then travel to Birmingham to meet the Samford Bulldogs, then return to Macon to host The Citadel, then travel to Lexington to meet VMI, then remain on the road traveling to New Haven, Conn. to face Yale.  

The Series:  In only the 5th meeting between the two teams, the Cats own a 2-2 record against the Bears, having dropped the last two games played, one in Macon and one in Cullowhee.

Last Season's Game vs. Mercer (Nov. 10, 2017) Turnovers, Special Teams Lead Mercer Past No. 25 Western Carolina, 35-33 - Tyrie Adams threw for a season-high 378 yards and three touchdowns as No. 25 Western Carolina tallied its third-highest total offensive output with 507 yards on Saturday afternoon. However, costly turnovers and big plays in the special teams by Mercer guided the Bears to the upset victory over the Catamounts, 35-33, on Hall of Fame / Senior Day at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.

Last season's Record (Mercer):  5-6 overall,  3-2 home,  2-4 away,  4-4 SoCon

Head Coach: Bobby Lamb enters his sixth season as head coach of Mercer football. Named the 19th head football coach in program history in 2011, he led the Bears to immediate success, claiming the third 10-win season of his career and setting the NCAA Division I record for wins by a first-year program with a 10-2 campaign. The 2013 win total also set a school record for victories, surpassing the previous mark of seven wins by Lake Russell’s 1931 and 1932 squads. For his efforts, he finished third in the PFL Coach of the Year voting and ranked among the top 11 finalists for FCS National Coach of the Year..

Offensive Formation: Spread  (Pistol)

Defensive Formation:  3-4

Starters Returning/Lost:  13  /  9

Offensive starters - Returning/Lost:  6 / 5

Defensive starters - Returning/Lost:  7 / 4

Specialist - Returning/Lost:  4 / 1

Lost from the two-deep roster:  14

Key Losses:
Offense: WR  Chandler Curtis; WR Avery Ward 6; LT  Thomas Marchman; RG  Caleb Yates;
Defense: DE  Jalen Penn; OLB  Kyle Williams; ILB  Lee Bennett; OLB  LeMarkus Bailey;
Specialist:  KR & PR Chandler Curtis

In the offseason, HC Bobby Lamb hired a new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Joe Pizzo, safeties coach Mitch Doolittle and cornerbacks coach Darius Safford in addition to three other title changes on his coaching staff. Offensive line coach Casey Vogt will serve as Running Game Coordinator while running backs coach Carter Barfield will be the Co-Recruiting Coordinator alongside La'Donte Harris. Pizzo most recently held the same titles at NCAA Division II North Greenville, Doolittle returns to Mercer after spending one season at PC as their DC, Safford comes from West Georgia.

2017 Mercer Statistics:
Rushing Offense: 1822 yards
Yards per game: 143.3
Yards per rush: 3.6 yards
Rushing 1st downs: 92
TDs rushing: 21
Passing Offense: 2079 yards or 189 yards per game
Avg. per pass: 7 yards
Passing 1st downs: 89
Passing Comp-Att-Int: 295-176-10
TDs Passing: 14
Total Offense: 3656 yards or 333.2 yards per game
Fumbles-Lost: 9-6
3d Down Conversions: 37%
4th Down Conversions: 47%
Field goal attempts: 16 - 23
PAT-Attempts: 36 of 38 (95%)
On-side kicks: 0-0
Red Zone Scores: 32 of 35
Red Zone Touchdowns: 25 of 35

Game prediction: Per the Massey Ratings, the Cats have a 39% probability of winning (27-31) over the Bears.

According to Massey, Western Carolina should be 4-3 after this game. I'm going to disagree, the Cats are 6-1 after this game.


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