Bears excited about facing the Goliath of football

Among Mercer’s many challenges in Saturday’s game against No. 1 Alabama is containing dynamic Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Among Mercer’s many challenges in Saturday’s game against No. 1 Alabama is containing dynamic Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts. AP

Mercer’s financial bottom line won’t be the only thing that the Bears hope to see impacted on Saturday.

In one of the truest stories of David and Goliath, Mercer will take on No. 1 ranked Alabama at noon Saturday. The Crimson Tide has its eyes on yet another SEC and national title. The Bears are in their fifth season since the program was resurrected.

“Once I signed, I thought we’d play small schools across the board,” Mercer linebacker Lee Bennett said. “When I heard we were playing Alabama, I got excited. It isn’t every year you get to play the No. 1 team in the nation.”

Odds are good that multiple NFL scouts will be at Saturday’s game, meaning that strong play by anyone on the Mercer roster could get them noticed for a possible look to play on the next level.

The Bears are looking forward to seeing how they stack up in person to players from a program as acclaimed as Alabama.

“You’ve got to be excited. They have NFL draft picks on that team and somewhere in the next four years they’ll have the chance to play in the NFL. Coach Saban has coached in the NFL and at Alabama,” Mercer running back Tee Mitchell said. “We have guys who have ambitions of playing in the NFL, too. We’re going up against guys who suit up their boots just like we do, so let’s find out what we can do. You can’t ask for a better opportunity on a national stage.”

And Mercer is relishing that big stage and probably wouldn’t mind results similar to another program from the Peach State that took on big-time competition to get its name some recognition. In 1988, Georgia Southern raised eyebrows across the country when it led Florida State 10-7 through three quarters before the Seminoles rallied to win 28-10. The Eagles may have lost that day, but the awareness of their program increased nationally in a big way. The Bears are hopeful for the same.

“It puts your name out there. Everyone knows that we started football five years ago and they now know we’re in Macon, Georgia. These games get your name on a national stage; everyone is going to watch and see what time Alabama is playing and who they’re playing,” Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb said. “They’ll research Mercer a little bit. It gets our name on a national stage and as we continue to build our brand here at Mercer, that’s what it is all about.”

The Bears do have momentum on their side, and they hope to bottle it up in Tuscaloosa. Linebacker Lee Bennett had 16 tackles and an interception last week, earning SoCon defensive player of the week honors in Mercer’s 35-33 win over Western Carolina. Chandler Curtis is also coming off of 184 all-purpose yards in the win, good for SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week accolades.

At the end of the day, the Bears are getting an opportunity to compete on one of college football’s biggest stages.

“I’m just going to go out there and have fun. I’m not focused on what Alabama is going to do, whether that is attacking me or game planning for me,” Bennett said. “It is a team game. I just want to say my teammates are going to go out and fight, no matter what opponent we face.”