Bobby Lamb is aware of his defense’s standing as the No. 1 rushing unit in the nation in FCS play.
But the Mercer head coach isn’t worried about those numbers this week, not with the powerhouse Wofford running game coming to town. The Bears and Terriers open Southern Conference play Saturday at Five Star Stadium, and a key matchup could be Wofford’s running game against Mercer’s rush defense.
The Bears lead the nation, allowing 51.7 rushing yards per game, while the Terriers’ rushing offense is second in the conference and eighth nationally, averaging 263.5 yards.
“The offense we’re about to face will blow all run defenses out of the water,” Lamb said. “There is really no way to stop them. You just have to try to contain what they do. It just puts so much stress on your defense to do the right thing on every play. Obviously, we’re going to give up some yards. There is no way on God’s green earth we’re going to hold them to 60 yards rushing. They’re going to get their yards.
“We just have to be in the right place and persevere and try to get them off the field.”
The Bears’ defense saw that firsthand last year in the season finale. Wofford cruised to a 34-6 win, showcasing its option offense and rushing for 374 yards.
Mercer is 2-1 this season, while the Terriers are 2-2.
“You’ve gotta have locked-in focus the whole week,” said safety Lendell Arnold, who is tied for the Mercer lead with 16 tackles. “They can come out in so many different sets and be in the spread one play and then the shotgun. There’s just so many parts, a lot of moving bodies. You have to be really focused.
“The key to having a chance to win the game is you have to have a guy on the dive, a guy on the quarterback and a guy on the pitch. If you have those things covered, you can play pretty well and have a chance.”
The Bears’ chances Saturday could be helped by some new faces on the field against the Terriers. Isaiah Buehler redshirted last year, while Tosin Aguebor missed the season with an injury, and both will be in the lineup Saturday. Austin Barrett played sparingly in that game, and he is now the Bears’ starting nose tackle.
The Bears have 24 tackles for loss with Buehler leading the way with 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks and Aguebor adding 3.5 tackles for loss. Mercer is allowing just 16.7 points and 300 yards per game (both ranking first in the conference), while Wofford’s offense is averaging 24.5 points and 349.2 yards per game.
“When we look at the tape of last year’s game and see who we had playing in that game as opposed to who we have out there now, it’s night and day,” Lamb said. “We feel a lot better about where we are. Our secondary has got to play great. We have had good run support out of the secondary, and you have to have that in this game.
“We’re going to need everyone to play well.”