Friday, August 4, 2023

Preseason Previews: Game #8 - Mercer Bears

Throughout this preseason, we will preview all of  Western Carolina's 2023 football opponents. For this season's eighth game, the Catamounts remain at home to face the nationally-ranked Mercer Bears.  

The Bears finished the 2022 season tied for third place with the Chattanooga Mocs, finishing with a 7-4 overall record. Mercer has been picked to finish this season in third place in preseason voting by the SoCon coaches and media.  

     Game #8 
             Mercer Bears

When: Saturday, October 28, 2022
Time:  2:30 pm
WhereBob Water Field, Whitmire Stadium, Cullowhee, NC
Radio: Catamount Sports Network
   -Play-by-Play:  Gary Ayers • Daniel Hooker  Producer: Jeff Bryson
TV/video:  ESPN+
Live Stats:  WCU Live Stats
Game Notes:  Western Carolina    -     Mercer      -    SoCon Weekly Notes
Fan Message BoardMU Bear Down

The Series: In only the 10th meeting between the two teams, the Cats own a 2-7 overall record against the Bears, having dropped the last seven (7) games played in the series. The Cats are 1-3 against the Bears in games played in Cullowhee.  

Last Season's Game vs. Mercer (October. 8, 2022) - Catamount Football Falls on the Road at No. 12 Mercer Macon, Ga. – No. 12 Mercer used a balanced offensive attack and created five Catamount turnovers in upending upset-minded Western Carolina 49-6 in Southern Conference action Saturday afternoon at Five Star Stadium. The Bears scored six first-half touchdowns to build a 42-point halftime edge while WCU only managed a pair of 43-yard Richard McCollum field goals in the road defeat 

Last Season's Record (2022 Mercer): 7-4 overall, 4-1 home, 3-3 away, 5-3 SoCon

Head Coach: Drew Cronic was named the 20th head football coach in Mercer University history on December 10, 2019. He spent the previous two seasons as the head coach at Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C. A native of Sharpsburg, Ga., Cronic is considered one of the more innovative offensive minds across all levels of college football.

Cronic's Collegiate Record: 59-15 
Cronic's Mercer Record:  16 - 10 

Kerwin Bell's record vs. Mercer:  0 - 2
Drew Cronic's record vs. WCU:  3 - 0

The Bears finished 7-4 overall last year, and 5-3 in the SoCon. Their last loss came in the regular-season finale, losing 50-44 in double overtime at eventual quarterfinalist Samford. Mercer enters this season ranked 17th by Athlon Sports and 19th by HERO Sports. The Bears put 12 players on the preseason All-SoCon squads, second only to Furman. 
Mercer returns a SoCon-best nine all-conference players from a season ago, including a quartet of first-team selections.  

Mercer Offensive Formation:  Multiple (Spread Wing)
Replacing Fred Payton at quarterback will be a difficult task, but Mercer has four quarterbacks currently on its roster. Carter Peevy is a fourth-year sophomore who played in one game last year and eight games in 2021. However, he started multiple games in the 2020-21 season and threw for 1,318 yards, eight touchdowns, and four interceptions. Daniel Shoch is a redshirt freshman,  Drew Moore is a true freshman, and Hess Horne is a transfer from Missouri State. He’s a third-year sophomore and was a three-star high school recruit who did not see any game action at Missouri State. The Bears do bring back a wide receiver duo of Ty James and Devron Harper. James recorded 52 receptions for 1,105 yards and 13 touchdowns last fall, while Harper added 78 catches for 987 yards and 10 touchdowns, 199 yards rushing and four scores, 523 kick return yards and a TD, and 169 punt return yards and a score.

Defensive Formation:  Multiple
Mercer brings back 10 starters on the defensive side of the ball, having only bid adieu to cornerback Michael Campbell after last season. Offensively, the Orange & Black will feature nine returning starters, including preseason all-American wide receivers Devron Harper and Ty James.

The Bears allowed an average of 120 rushing yards per game (#21 in FCS)  and 217 passing yards per game (#54 in FCS) last fall. Their 17 interceptions were the third-most in the FCS. The Bears return their top five tacklers and 10 of the top 11, as the Bears only allowed 22 points per game (#27 in the FCS).  Isaac Dowling is back after leading the team with 99 tackles and nine tackles for loss, as is Ken Standley who put up 85 tackles, seven TFLs, and two sacks, Lance Wise (58 tackles, 3.5 TFLs), Richie Coffey (41 tackles, 4.5 TFLs), and Myles Redding (60 tackles, two TFLs) return as well. TJ Moore is a 6-foot-1 cornerback coming off a season where he totaled 40 tackles and three interceptions. Cam Sims is a 6-foot-2 cornerback who had 30 tackles, and two interceptions. 

Last season, the Bears overpowered the Catamounts by 43 points in Macon, for the worst outing of the season for the Catamounts. Hopefully, the Cats extract an overdue win over the Bears in Cullowhee. 

2022 Mercer Statistics (11 games):
Rushing Offense: 2091 yards
Yards per game: 190
Yards per rush: 5.1 yards
Rushing 1st downs: 43
TDs rushing: 104
Passing Offense: 3109 yards or 283 yards per game
Avg. per pass: 9.2 yards
Passing 1st downs: 139
Att-Comp-Int: 338-223-9
TDs Passing: 1433
Total Offense: 5200 yards or 473 yards per game
Fumbles-Lost: 23-13
3d Down Conversions: 68 of 144 (47.2%)
4th Down Conversions: 17 of 20 (85%)
Field goal attempts: 10 of 14
On-side kicks: 0-0
Red Zone Scores: 40 of 47  
Red Zone Touchdowns: 31 of 47 
PAT:  54 of 55 
Touchdowns scored:  56

No comments: