Memphis and Yale headline 2018 Mercer football schedule

Mercer tight end Chris Ellington (88) hangs onto the ball while being knocked down by VMI's A.J. Smith (25) during their game last season.
Mercer tight end Chris Ellington (88) hangs onto the ball while being knocked down by VMI's A.J. Smith (25) during their game last season.

The 2018 season continues to come into focus for the Mercer University football team. After securing 12 prospects, including Southwest High School offensive lineman Isaiah Goolsby, during the early signing period, the Bears have announced their 2018 schedule.

Mercer finished last season with a 5-6 record and a .500 conference record. Two of those six losses came against the eventual national champion Alabama and Auburn, the only team to beat the Crimson Tide. Three of the four losses in the Southern Conference came by a total of 11 points. That included a one-point loss at home to Wofford, a three-point overtime road loss at East Tennessee State and a seven-point road loss at Furman.

There’s a real feeling in the area that this might be the year that Mercer breaks out and makes their mark on the gridiron. The season will find the same conference foes waiting but two of their three out-of-conference games will definitely look different.

“I think last year, if you look at the schedule obviously playing at Alabama and Auburn in one year was probably a historic year,” Mercer football head coach Bobby Lamb said about the team’s non-conference schedule. “It probably won’t be done again at the FCS level.”

Those games had a great affect on a program looking to quickly ascend into the regional recruiting game.

“Let’s face it, we had ESPN here, we had Sports Illustrated here, we had USA Today here, and I did an interview with the Washington Post,” Lamb said while discussing the impact of playing two powerhouse schools last season.

But beyond the national attention those games received, they also opened up regional recruiting areas and that is the advantage of opening their 2018 season in Memphis.

“We look forward to going to Memphis and hopefully opening some recruiting lines in the city,” Lamb said. “We struggled in finding an SEC or ACC school but Memphis can beat a lot of Power 5 schools and it’s in an area that’s close enough to that we can expand our recruiting.”

In addition to Memphis, the Bears will travel to Connecticut to take on Ivy League champion Yale. For Lamb, it’s a unique opportunity to further the Bears national footprint.

“You make a little name for yourself here and now you expand up the East Coast and play a school with the history of Yale, in the Yale Bowl, against an Ivy League champion,” Lamb said. “So it’s a great challenge and a great way to expand our brand as we move forward.”

For their third non-conference game, the Bears will once again welcome Jacksonville University a week after traveling to Memphis. The two games mark the beginning of a season where Mercer will not play back-to-back home games. Jacksonville also prepares Mercer for the triple option. It’s an offense that three different teams in the SoCon run.