Mercer went into the last week of the season in 2021 with a chance to win the conference and make the playoffs. The Bears took a 35-28 lead early in the fourth quarter against East Tennessee State and led 35-31 inside of two minutes to play. It was not to be as the Bears gave up a touchdown with 1:47 on the clock and finished 7-3. Had Mercer played and defeated an FCS team in week one instead of sub-FCS Point, the 7-3 record would have been enough to secure a playoff spot.
Over the last couple of years, Mercer has seen major improvements on both sides of the ball, but the real improvement is on defense. In 2019 the Bears allowed 35.4 points per game. Last season, that number was down to 21.7. Couple that with and offense scoring 31 points a game and there is a recipe for success. Losing RB Fred Davis after a strong Freshman year certainly hurts but the Bears are on the right trajectory. Some of those carries may go to James Madison transfer Austin Douglas.
QB Fred Payton took the starting job in 2021 and played to mixed results. He turned the ball over more than you would like to see from a quarterback but he did have a couple of strong games. He is a good complement to a strong run game but he will have to take a step forward this year for the Bears to secure a playoff spot.
LB Isaac Dowling is a tackling machine. He let the Bears in tackles in both the spring and fall seasons last year as a freshman. He has 15 tackles for loss in 20 career games. Dowling is a big reason that the defense has improved so much over the last two seasons.
DL Solomon Zubairu is the anchor of the defensive line for Mercer. He has led the team in tackles for loss and sacks in each of the last two seasons.
Key Game: October 15 vs East Tennessee State
Worst Case: Missing Fred Davis in the back field proves difficult to overcome and the Bears slip back to the middle of the conference.
Best Case: The Bears continue to improve and secure their first FCS playoff berth.
Mercer 2022 Season
Jamie is a proud 2002 graduate of James Madison University. He’s witnessed the growth of the program from no one in the stands in 1998, to the hiring of Mickey Matthews, to the 2004 National Championship, to the 2008 team, to the struggles in the early 2010s, and finally the rebuild under Mike Houston. He also allegedly really enjoys Washington, DC-based Stanley Cup winners.
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