The first opponent for Mercer since the 1940s worked out so well for the Bears that it has been invited back.
The same goes for the second one. But after that, Mercer’s second football schedule since reinstatement bears little resemblance to the first.
Mercer will play non-conference games against three opponents from 2013 when it opens its first Southern Conference season in 2014.
“This is an outstanding schedule for our program and our fans,” Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb said. “Making the move to the Southern Conference is a huge leap, but we look forward to facing the challenge. Our fans and game day atmosphere is one of the best in the country, and we expect them to show up this fall and be the difference.”
The schedule includes seven home games and three teams in the same situation as Mercer: second-year programs. Reinhardt and Warner are NAIA programs that had varied success in 2013, and Stetson was a Pioneer Football League opponent in its first year back, as well.
Reinhardt lost the heartbreaking opener against Mercer, 40-37 on Josh Shutter’s field goal with three seconds left, but finished 6-4. The Bears manhandled Warner 61-0 two weeks later and thumped Stetson 41-14 to end the season.
Ave Maria and Austin Peay are the other two non-conference opponents, both coming to Mercer. Ave Maria is an NAIA program that went 8-2 last year, including a 27-3 win over Warner. Austin Peay went 0-12 last season, 0-8 in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Governors have had two winning seasons (7-4 in 2007 and 7-5 in 2002) since the turn of the century.
The first Southern Conference game will end a high-pressure week. Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb’s former employer — and where he spent his entire adult life before coming to Mercer — visits his current employer as Furman is the conference opener for Mercer on the second Saturday of the season.
Lamb played at Furman, was a graduate assistant, an assistant and then head coach at Furman before resigning after the 2010 season with a 67-40 record. The Bears finish the season at Wofford.
2014 Mercer schedule
Aug. 28 Reinhardt
Sept. 6 Furman*
Sept. 13 at Stetson
Sept. 20 Ave Maria
Sept. 27 at VMI*
Oct. 4 at Samford*
Oct. 11 Austin Peay
Oct. 18 Western Carolina*
Oct. 25 at Chattanooga*
Nov. 1 The Citadel*
Nov. 15 Warner
Nov. 22 at Wofford*
*Southern Conference games