Photo provided by Mercer Athletics
It was another tough week for Mercer after a 28-21 loss to Furman on Saturday that came down to the last possession of the game. The Paladins snapped the Bears three-game win streak and extended their own win streak to five games. Mercer falls to 4-4 and 3-3 in conference play.
The game was back and forth and seemed like it might come down to whoever had the ball last. Furman’s 14 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarter would ultimately be insurmountable as Mercer’s final 10-play two-minute drill in the four quarter ended in a Furman interception on the goal line and dashed hopes of a Mercer comeback. Head Coach Bobby Lamb said the ball game came down to just a few areas.
“Number one would be penalties; we had 10 penalties, some untimely ones at that. [Number two was] third and fourth down conversions. … [Number three] was we didn’t kick and punt the ball very well,” Lamb said in Monday’s press conference.
Mercer’s defense struggled to get Furman’s offense off the field on a number of drives. The Paladins had 3 touchdown drives of six minutes or longer and were a perfect 4-4 on fourth-down conversions including a crucial 4-and-1 on Mercer’s five-yard line that led to the go-ahead touchdown with under five minutes to play.
“Furman converted every one of its fourth down attempts; when we’re in those situations, we have to figure out a way to get off the field,” Lamb said after Saturday’s game. “We didn’t do that. We have to play better and coach better. That all falls on me.”
Mercer’s offense was able to move the ball well against Furman’s defense totaling 435 yards in offense. Kaelan Riley found a favorite target in Chandler Curtis who ended the game with 11 catches and 202 all-purpose yards on the day. Despite Furman’s long drives, Mercer only trailed in time of possession by 1:34.
After the loss Mercer heads into a much needed bye week. The Bears have played 8 weeks straight that included games against Socon-leading Wofford College and the SEC’s Auburn University. Lamb will give his team some much needed rest this week before another SoCon battle against Samford.
“Your mentality is [that] you want to get out there in practice and do what you can to be on the field. However, our bye week comes so late in the year; it’s been a long seven or eight weeks and everybody’s tired, so we’re going to give some time off,” Lamb said. “We gave [the players] Sunday off, we gave them Monday off, and we’ll give them [Tuesday] off as well. We’ll then be back on the field preparing for Samford on Thursday and Friday.”
A positive is that the Bears enter the bye week healthy. Players in Monday’s press conference gave the impression that despite a much needed break they might still want to be on the field. Lee Bennett, coming off a career-high 17 tackles against Furman, recognized that his teammates needed the rest.
“Guys are getting their minds ready to go back, because we’re definitely ready to go back to work after taking a tough loss,” Bennett said. “We’re definitely excited about [the bye week], so we’re going to use it to our advantage.”
Mercer will play FCS-ranked #8/9 Samford on Nov. 4 for homecoming. It will be the first of three games against ranked opponents to finish the season including their regular season conclusion against FBS #1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.