Mercer had a lot of close losses in 2014.
The season finale against Wofford wasn’t one of them.
The Terriers ran over the Bears 34-6 to wrap up a 6-5 season, while Mercer finished 6-6. It was the only loss for Mercer decided by more than 14 points.
And it has been on the Bears’ minds since, especially with the 2015 season opener set for Saturday at Austin Peay.
“It’s been a minute since we’ve played, and all I can really think about is everybody in that locker room after that loss to Wofford,” junior linebacker Corey Lockett said. “It was a terrible feeling and left a bitter taste in our mouth. That really motivated us in the offseason, into the summer and into camp.
“We have to take the next step, and the coaches have been preaching and the players have been preaching that we have to take the next step. We’re just ready to go.”
The Bears get to see if they have taken the next step this season. That starts against a Governors team they defeated 49-21 last year.
With the program entering its third season, and the second on in the Southern Conference, the Bears are 16-8 since the program returned.
“We have been uncertain about a lot of games around here the past two years,” head coach Bobby Lamb said of the opener. “You’re in a brand new conference in the (Pioneer League) and then a brand new conference in the Southern Conference, so there has been a lot of uncertainty going into a lot of games. We’re probably more comfortable with the first game this year than we have been in most games because we played them last year.
“We’ve got their last four games on tape from last year, plus our game. We have a good scouting report. They do have a lot of guys back, but they are familiar with us now, too, so it should be a really good football game.”
It wasn’t close last year, and the blowout started early as Mercer scored 28 first-quarter points and cruised the rest of the way. The Bears are 4-5 away from home in their two seasons, and Saturday marks their first season opener away from home.
“I think we’re all excited. It gets to a point in training camp, preseason camp, when you’re ready to move on,” Lamb said. “Our players are ready to, as we always say, try to hit another jersey, to execute our plan against somebody else besides the guys we have out there at practice. So from the coaching staff all the way down the players, it’s an exciting time.
“Having played them before certainly helps. No. 1, you’re taking a road trip, and No. 2, you are playing a team you are familiar with. Had we gone on the road and never played Austin Peay before, it would be totally different.”