Mercer hosts Stetson University at 6 p.m. Saturday in its home football opener. The Bears are coming off a 28-7 win last week at Austin Peay. Here are five things to watch for at Five Star Stadium:
1. Staying focused: The Bears can’t overlook the Hatters even though they have beaten them easily the past two years, winning by a combined score of 90-14. It’s a new year and a new group of players, and Mercer needs to build momentum and confidence in the first month of the season before it opens Southern Conference play in October.
2. Strong at home: Mercer has played in front of big crowds at home in its two seasons, and the team has given the fans reason to show up loud and proud with a 12-3 home record.
3. Dynamic duo: Alex Lakes and Tee Mitchell give the Bears a strong duo in the backfield, and they showed that last week. Lakes rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns, while Mitchell had 101 yards rushing and a touchdown, along with another score receiving.
4. Getting offensive: Quarterback John Russ also had a solid game last week as the Bears had good offensive balance, with their junior signal-caller throwing for 176 yards. With a dominant running game to play off of, Russ and his talented receivers need to continue that trend.
5. Getting defensive: The Bears’ defense allowed just 244 yards last week and pitched a shutout in the second half. It will face an improved Stetson offense, which scored 42 points in its season opener.