Things shouldn’t be as “weird” this time around for Bobby Lamb.
Two years ago, Lamb returned to Furman for the first time as Mercer’s head coach. Lamb played at Furman and was an assistant for the Paladins before taking over as the program’s head coach for nine seasons. In short, few people are tied to the Furman program as strongly as Lamb is.
But two years ago, Lamb and the Bears walked out of Paladin Stadium with a 27-20 overtime win.
“It was really weird that first year, going back and being on the visitor sideline,” Lamb said. “But that’s all over and done; I’ve been there and done that.”
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Still, Lamb’s ties are strong to the program, including with first-year head coach Clay Hendrix, who is also a Furman graduate. Furman offensive coordinator Drew Cronic worked for Lamb when Lamb was the Paladins’ head coach.
“Being Furman graduates, Clay and I and our relationship ... growing up (with him) makes him want to beat me and me want to beat him,” Lamb said. “It’s probably people making a lot about nothing. We’re going to study his offensive and defensive tape, and he’s going to do the same. We’re going to have a game plan, (Furman) is going to have a game plan, and we’ll go about our business on game day.
“(We) will shake hands after the game, and we’ll be friends again. But going back there and playing, I still have a lot of friends and family in the area ... it’s big for me and big for my family, but at the end of the day we’re going for one reason and one reason only: to come back with a win.”
Mercer has won three straight games to sit 4-3 overall and 3-2 in Southern Conference play. Furman is 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the conference.
Mercer has won the past two games in the series after losing its conference debut to Furman in 2014. The three meetings have been decided by 15 points.
“It would be awesome to win for Coach Lamb. He spent a lot of time at Furman,” Mercer redshirt freshman quarterback Kaelan Riley said. “There’s always a sour taste in our mouth when we play Furman. Even when I first arrived here, you could tell with Furman week. It is a bitter rivalry; I’m excited for this week.”