Mercer Edges Bulldogs 45-42 in SoCon Thriller

MACON, Ga. – The Samford University Bulldogs (2-3, 1-2 SoCon) fell to the Mercer University Bears (3-1, 2-0 SoCon) 45-42 on Saturday, Oct. 2 at Five Star Stadium behind Fred Davis’s school-record 276 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

Liam Welch finished the day 31-of-46 for 312 yards with four touchdowns and a pair of interceptions for Samford. Jay Stanton rushed for 101 yards while Montrell Washington grabbed six passes for 65 yards and a pair of scores. Josiah Cotton led the Bulldogs with nine tackles while Lamar Anderson and Noah Martin added eight apiece.   
After the two teams traded punts to open the first quarter, Samford forced the first turnover of the game, as Noah Martin fell on Fred Payton’s fumble with 9:27 to go.
The Bulldogs took advantage of the Bears miscue, marching 60 yards in seven plays, as Liam Welch connected with Montrell Washington on a 14-yard touchdown pass. Zach Williams’ PAT gave Samfoed the 7-0 lead with 8:00 remaining in the first quarter.
Mercer answered right back, as Devin Folser nailed a 42-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3 with 4:17 to play in the first quarter. The kick capped a nine-play, 53-yard drive in 3:35.
Mercer forced another Bradley Porcellato punt, but Chris Edmonds’ third interception of the season ended the Bears’ next drive.
The first quarter ended with Samford leading 7-3. The Bulldogs held a 115-82 edge in total offense while Liam Welch finished the frame 9-of-14 for 90 yards with a touchdown.
After a well-played defensive second quarter by both clubs, Welch’s second interception of the game, was returned to the 49. A late hit penalty added 15 yards to set up the Bears deep in Samford territory. Fred Davis rushed 31 yards on the first play of the drive for the Bears’ first touchdown of the night, giving Mercer the 10-7 lead with 3:20 to play in the half.
Samford answered back on its next possession, as Welch found Chandler Smith on a 36-yard touchdown pass to put the Bulldogs back up 14-10 with 1:08 to play. The drive covered 64 yards in eight plays in 2:04.
Mercer ended the first half as Folser’s 47-yard field goal attempt clanged off the left upright to send the two teams into the locker room with the Bulldogs holding a 14-10 lead.
Samford closed the first half with 222 yards of total offense, including 137 passing and 85 rushing. Welch was 11-of-20 with a pair of touchdowns and interceptions.
Mercer had 194 yards at the half with Davis rushing for a game-high 88 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
Samford took the initial kickoff of the second half and drove the ball 68 yards in nine plays, as Welch found Montrell Washington for a 16-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 21-10 with 11:50 to play in the third quarter.
Mercer cut the deficit to four, 21-17, with 10:24 to play in the third quarter on Davis’s second rushing touchdown of the night. The Bears covered 75 yards in 1:24 on just three plays.
A mere 1:18 later, Michael Vice hauled in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Welch to put the Bulldogs back up by 11, 28-17, with 9:06 remaining in the third. A 41-yard reception by Jai’rus Creamer set up the touchdown for Samford.
Davis continued the scoring trend for the Bears, running 54 yards for a Bears score. The Suwanee, Ga., native’s third score of the night brought the Bears back to within four, 28-24, with 7:30 to go in the third quarter.
After the Bulldogs had a touchdown called back on a hold and a missed field goal opportunity, Mercer took its first lead of the night, 31-28, as Payton found Ty James in the back of the endzone for a 15-yard score with :40 remaining in the third quarter.
Both teams had eclipsed 400 yards through quarters, as the Bears held a slim 415-402 edge in total offense.
After converting a key fourth down earlier in the drive, the Bulldogs reclaimed the lead on Washington’s third score of the night, a 5-yard reverse. The score put the Bulldogs up four, 35-31, with 11:54 to play in the game.
Mercer’s Davis scored for the fourth time in the game, plunging in from one yard out to give the Bears the lead once again, 38-35, with 8:17 remaining in the fourth. The rushing touchdown also gave the redshirt freshman from Forsythe, Ga., the school record for rushing yards in a game with 229.
The Bears scored on their fifth consecutive drive to take a commanding, 45-35, lead with 4:21 to go in the fourth, as Davis dove in from the three-yard line. Mercer’s drive covered 52 yards on six plays in 2:28.
Down 10 with less than 3:00 to play, Welch, who scored on a 1-yard run, engineered a 12-play, 71-yard drive to cut the deficit to three, 45-42, with 1:25 to play.
Mercer recovered the ensuing onside kick and salted away the clock for the victory.
The Bears finished the night with 568 yards of total offense with 355 rushing. Davis rushed a game-high 28 times for 276 yards and five touchdowns in the win.
Samford closed the contest with 518 yards including a season-high 206 yards rushing.  
Samford leads the all-time series 14-13-1 after having won three of the last six meetings between the schools, including a 44-20 victory on April 17, 2021 at Bobby Bowden Field-Seibert Stadium during the spring season. The Bulldogs defeated the Bears, 20-3, on Nov. 4, 2017 in their last victory in Macon.   
The Bulldogs will enjoy a bye week in the Southern Conference before traveling to Spartanburg, S.C. to face the Terriers (1-3, 0-2 SoCon) of Wofford College. Kickoff is set for 1:30 PM EST and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+. Wofford dropped its second straight SoCon game, 27-21, to East Tennessee State earlier on Saturday in Johnson City, Tenn.  
For the latest news and information on Samford football, visit the official website for Samford Athletics at Fans can also follow the Bulldogs on social media at /SamfordFootball (Facebook), @SamfordFootball (Instagram) and @SamfordFootball (Twitter).

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