Tee Mitchell had two rushing touchdowns to lead the Mercer Bears past The Citadel on Saturday afternoon at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 24-14.
Mercer (3-3, 2-1 SoCon) capitalized on three turnovers by the Bulldogs to build a 21-0 lead and held off a couple of late opportunities for The Citadel (3-2, 1-2 SoCon) late to edge the Bulldogs at home. An early turnover inside the Mercer 5-yard line proved costly as The Citadel scored twice in the fourth quarter and recovered a late onside kick to threaten.
“We had opportunities to win this game and to put the ball in the end zone and we didn’t,” Citadel head coach Brent Thompson told the media following the game. “I’ve been around this game long enough to know that if you run the ball and continue to get first downs, then you have a chance to win the game, and we didn’t do that today.”
The Bulldogs outgained Mercer 381-311, but converted on only 3-of-15 third down opportunities. Quarterback Dom Allen threw for 180 yards, completing 14-of-31 passes with an interception.
Mitchell had the key play in the win for Mercer, breaking loose on a second-and-goal opportunity from 16 for the Bears’ second quarter to push the lead to 14-0 just before the half. Bears’ quarterback Kaelan Riley was 12-for-23 through the air for 111 yards.
The Citadel defense forced two turnovers and had 10 tackles for loss in the game.
Mercer jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a short C.J. Leggett touchdown run, capping a 5-play, 48-yard drive at the midway point of the first quarter following a fumble by the Bulldogs near midfield.
The Bulldogs would drive inside the Mercer 5 early in the second, but Mercer’s Kyle Trammel crashed in on The Citadel’s Brandon Berry to force a fumble, recovered by the Bears to keep the score at 7-0. Berry finished with 65 yards and his first career touchdown run in the loss.
Following a Bulldog missed field goal, Mercer drove 70 yards in 11 plays to add to its league. Mitchell broke loose on a 16-yard touchdown run on a long second-and-goal play to push the lead to 14-0 with 4:24 to play in the half.
Mercer pushed the lead to 21-0 late in the third on another short Mitchell TD run.
The Bulldogs rallied to open the fourth when Allen found Raleigh Webb for 33 yards on a catch-and-run to set up a short Allen leap to cut the lead to 21-7.
Berry’s late TD run came on the heels of an acrobatic catch by running back Cam Jackson along the Citadel sideline for 28 yards. The Bulldogs would get the onside kick, but could not inch any close.
Safety Aron Spann III led the Bulldogs with 12 tackles, a forced fumble, and a TFL.
Lee Bennett led Mercer with 16 tackles.
The Bulldogs host Wofford next Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.
-per The Citadel Athletics