Mercer perfect so far, but true test awaits

MACON, Ga. — Mercer University football fans are understandably excited about their team’s perfect start, but the true test for the Bears (3-0) begins this weekend when Drake University (1-2) comes to town.

Playing its first football since the 1940s, Mercer kicked off its season with three out-of-conference games. Eight of Mercer’s remaining nine games are against Pioneer Football League opponents.

“Anytime you get put into a new conference you try to do all the homework you can in the offseason about the programs that are in this league,” Mercer Coach Bobby Lamb said. “If you look at the league it is pretty much top heavy with Drake, San Diego and Jacksonville. Unfortunately for us we are drawing one of the top teams early so we are going to see how we can compete and how good we are right now in a hurry.”

Mercer was predicted to finish 11th in the PFL. So far, the Bears have posted some impressive statistics.

Mercer leads the PFL with 497.7 yards of offense per game and leads the conference with 324.3 rushing yards per game. Conversely, the Drake Bulldogs are last in the conference with 280.3 yards of offense per game and 11th with 74.3 rushing yards per game.

“To be honest with you, our kids are so confident right now,” Lamb said. “They have no other reason than to believe we can beat Drake because they have gone out and performed and done exactly what we have asked them to do in practice.”

While it is too early to crown a PFL winner, it is worth noting that none of Mercer’s remaining opponents have a winning record. Jacksonville University leads the pack with a .500 (2-2) record.

Mercer defeated Reinhardt University (2-2) on Aug. 31 to kick off its season, then handily defeated Warner University (0-4) on Sept. 14. Last week, Mercer defeated Berry College (1-2), a Division III program.

“It was a really good team win for us,” Lamb said of the win over Berry. “The guy that really jumped off the page for us is the guy you don’t want to jump off the page and that is our punter, Rob East. He averaged almost 44 yards per kick and pinned them down inside the five yard line three different times, so he had a great game.

“Offensively we rushed for 379 yards and the offensive line did some good things again. Defensively we held them to 10 yards rushing, so this was a great team win,” Lamb added. “For the second straight week were able to get a lot of guys in the game and evaluate our second and third strings so that is always positive.”

All three of Mercer’s opponents so far this year have been startup programs. And, thanks to a pair of shut outs, Mercer’s defense has not allowed any points in the last 131:24 of play.

The Pioneer Football League is a football-only conference in the Football Championship Subdivision. Mercer is moving to the Southern Conference next year.

Note: Coach Bobby Lamb’s quotes were provided by Mercer University.

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Todd DeFeo

Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits The Travel Trolley and Railfanning.org.