SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Wofford Athletics/AP) — Irvin Mulligan ran for 90 yards and a touchdown and Wofford opened its season on Saturday with a 31-14 win over Mercer in the Southern Conference opener for both teams.
It was the first game in school history played by the Terriers in the month of February. It was also the first time the Bears played in the spring since 1892.
The Terriers rushed for 201 yards and passed for 173 yards, with four different players scoring touchdowns. Irvin Mulligan led the team with 90 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Jimmy Weirick was 12-of-18 passing for 173 yards. The Bears were led by Nakendrick Clark with 67 rushing yards.
“Having not played in over a year I was really pleased,” said Wofford head coach Josh Conklin. “I was pleased with the effort and I thought we tackled well on defense. We made a few mental mistakes on offense but from an execution standpoint I am happy where we are at. It is a great game for us to build on for next week. I thought we got some big take-aways when they were driving the field which helped us out a lot and we were good on third down offensively which was a huge positive. The turnover margin was huge and when you win that you have a chance to win the game, especially when you score off of the turnovers.”
The Terriers had the ball first and went three-and-out. On the first series for the Bears, Michael Mason forced a fumble that was recovered by Brandon Brown at the 33-yard line. With the short field, Wofford had two first downs before Irvin Mulligan scored a five-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead with 9:53 on the clock in the first quarter. Mercer then went three-and-out and punted. Wofford had one first down on their next drive before punting.
Mercer picked up three first downs before Michael Mason forced a fumble that was recovered by John Beckley at the 27-yard line. The teams then traded three-and-outs. With the ball back, Wofford had three first downs to move into the red zone before a 25-yard field goal by Dawson Henis gave the Terriers a 10-0 lead with 7:24 left in the second quarter. Mercer followed with a three-and-out. Wofford then had a fourth-and-long that was converted with a 36-yard pass to Landon Parker. Ryan Lovelace capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown run and Wofford had a 17-0 lead with 1:11 left in the first half. Mercer turned the ball over on downs and the Terriers took a knee to end the half.
To open the second half, Mercer had four first downs and ended the drive with a four-yard touchdown run to make it a 17-7 game with 11:12 on the clock in the third quarter. Wofford answered with a nine-play drive that covered 70 yards and was capped by a two-yard run by Nathan Walker for a 24-7 lead with 6:25 left in the quarter. After Mercer gained one first down, a stop by Michael Mason on fourth-and-three turned the ball over on downs. Wofford had a first down by Ryan Ingram before having to punt.
On the next drive by the Bears, they had one first down before a fumble was recovered by Elijah Ball at the 29-yard line. D’mauriae VanCleave had a 36-yard reception for a first down and Irvin Mulligan followed with a rushing first down. Jamari Broussard scored a 12-yard touchdown for a 31-7 lead with 11:19 on the clock in the fourth quarter. Mercer converted three fourth-down plays on the ensuing drive before scoring a one-yard touchdown run with 2:23 remaining in the game for a 31-14 score. With Peyton Derrick in at quarterback, the Terriers went three-and-out and punted. Rett Russell had a sack on the next possession by the Bears and they had to punt. Wofford took a knee to end the game.
Wofford had 374 total yards, with 201 rushing yards. Mercer had 312 total yards, 181 of which were rushing. Wofford had 18 first downs, while Mercer had 17. Wofford was 7-of-14 on third down and Mercer was 4-of-15 on third down. The Terriers were 1-of-1 on fourth down and Mercer was 3-of-5 on fourth down. Wofford was called for four penalties to only one for the Bears. Mercer had a 30:42 to 29:18 time of possession advantage.
Mulligan opened the scoring on the three-time defending SoCon champion’s second drive of the game, capitalizing on a short field after the first of Mercer’s three lost fumbles. Nakendrick Clark ran 17 times for 67 yards for Mercer.
Next up for Wofford is a road game against Chattanooga Saturday, February 27.