Mercer football’s loss last Saturday, as many do, came on the final possession of the game. ETSU’s Austin Herink threw the game winning touchdown 25 yards on the Bucs first possession during overtime. The loss had an eerily familiar feel as it was Mercer’s second time leading by 10 points or more going into the fourth quarter.
“I really felt like our players were ready to play the game,” said Head Coach Bobby Lamb.
The Bears totaled more than 400 yards on offense; but an uncharacteristic 10 penalties, fumble returned 50 yards, and a missed extra point stalled the Bears’ chance at a road victory. In Monday’s press conference Lamb experienced a bit of deja vu explaining what could have been a win.
“We counted it up. There’s three plays on offense, three plays on defense, and one on special teams that if one of those seven plays had been made, we probably would have won the game,” Lamb said. “It’s a head scratcher for our staff. It’s a head scratcher for our football team. Obviously you’ve got to learn, but ultimately you’ve got to step up and do it.”
Lamb pointed out that the Bears came back to win on three occasions last year against Furman University, East Tennessee State University, and Virginia Military Institute, who the Bears play this week.
However, it is hard to ignore the obvious. Since the Bears entered the SoCon in 2014 this is the 13th loss of seven points or less. Mercer is 9-13 in those contests. So far this season, the defense has been plagued with giving up double-digit leads in the fourth quarter despite playing well for much of the game.
Safety Eric Jackson said the defense can not afford to let the slip-ups get in their heads.
“We always have to have the mindset that ‘we’re going to win this game,’” Jackson said. “To be a great football team you can’t have negative thoughts like that because it will just trickle down the team and everybody will start to have that negative energy.”
“We’ve been around the block with this deal where if you talk about it too much you go overboard and who knows what’s going to happen,” Lamb said.
Lamb said he has to get his team back to the basics in order to have them feeling good going into fourth quarters. The Bears play VMI this week. The Bears are 2-1 against the Keydets since 2014.
All three games have been decided by seven points or less.