Sunday, November 26, 2023

Mercer Bears Eliminate Gardner-Webb in FCS Playoff Showdown

MACON, GA – In a hard-fought battle on the gridiron, the Mercer Bears emerged victorious against the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs in the first round of the FCS Playoffs, ending the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ season with a final score of 17-7 on Saturday afternoon.

The game showcased intense defensive efforts from both teams, with Mercer ultimately prevailing through a combination of standout plays and resilient defense.

The Bears’ Carter Peevy wasted no time asserting his dominance in the second quarter, scoring both of Mercer’s touchdowns in a four-minute window. Peevy’s 2-yard run in the second quarter set the tone offensively and he continued to dazzle with a spectacular 72-yard touchdown run, expanding Mercer’s lead to 14-0.

Gardner-Webb, however, answered back before halftime. Quarterback Jaylen King connected with Karim Page for a 3-yard touchdown pass, closing the gap to 14-7, and entering the locker room with hopes of a second-half comeback.

The third quarter saw both teams locked in a defensive struggle, with neither side yielding significant ground. Gardner-Webb’s Jay Billingsley attempted a 45-yard field goal that went wide left, maintaining Mercer’s lead. Mercer matched possessions with a missed field goal of their own to keep it scoreless heading into the final stanza.

As the game progressed, the Mercer defense proved formidable, forcing turnovers and limiting Gardner-Webb’s offensive opportunities. Despite Gardner-Webb’s defense, highlighted by Ty French’s three sacks, Mercer’s Reice Griffith sealed the deal with a 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, extending the lead to its final margin.

Gardner-Webb fought hard in the closing minutes, attempting to mount a comeback, but Mercer’s defense stood strong. A pair of interceptions by Mercer on Gardner-Webb’s final two drives sealed the fate of the Runnin’ Bulldogs.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs ended the 2023 season as back-to-back conference champions for the first time in two decades with the first-ever set of back-to-back postseason appearances. Gardner-Webb finished a perfect 5-0 at home for only the second time in team history.