Thanks to the steady, grinding work of the unrelenting march of time, we have arrived at the gates of the 2023 football season.
What happens when we walk through those gates remains to be seen*, but we do know the order of challenges over the next three months. Each week during the season, I’ll feature Ole Miss’ opponent in this space so we can learn a little more about why they are the way they are.
*Probably a low-stress three months that won’t contain any sweating things out.
As you may have noticed, first up is Mercer, who comes to Oxford fresh off a 17-7 win over North Alabama in Montgomery, Alabama in Week 0. While we have a geographical contradiction there, the Bears got their season started not with flair or drama but just enough TCB-ing to begin 1-0.
So let’s get to know Mercer, both as a university and a football team.
Mercer’s main campus is in Macon, Georgia, which is a little over an hour down I-75 from Atlanta. Macon has been home to Otis Redding, The Allman Brothers Band, and Little Richard.
In fact, should you find yourself in Macon, $20 will get you in The Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House. If you go because you read this, please send me a moderately priced souvenir.
History of Mercer
Founded in 1833 as a private preparatory school for boys (U FANCY) in Penfield, Georgia* (U NOT FANCY), Mercer was initially under the leadership of Billington McCarter Sanders and Adiel Sherwood, whose names sound exactly like they lived in 1833. Sherwood was a Baptist minister who modeled Mercer after a boys’ manual labor school, which also sounds like some peak 1833 shit.
“Their small legs don’t take up much space in the ditches they’re digging with a stick!”
*About halfway between Atlanta and Augusta off I-20.
The school was named after another Baptist minister named Jesse Mercer, who provided the cash money to get the school going and, in exchange, became the school’s first chairman of the board of trustees. Some good ol’ fashioned Baptist wheelin’ and dealin’!
The state of Georgia granted Mercer a charter in 1837, and its first graduating class of three walked across the stage in 1841 after listening to a speech from an 1840s TikTok star. Rest assured though, there was no celebrating or dancing later that night.
In 1871, the school picked up and moved to Macon because even those Baptists knew Penfield was not bringing a lot to the table.
Rapid Fire Mercer Trivia
- Mercer’s total enrollment in 2022 was just under 9,000 students, with about 4900 of those doing undergraduate work
- Mercer also has campuses in Atlanta, Columbus, and Savannah
- Wildly enough, Mercer’s medical school is on the main campus in Macon AND in Columbus and Savannah
- On April 18, 1963, Mercer became the first college or university in Georgia to desegregate
- In 2008, Mercer joined Ole Miss (2001) in being granted a Phi Beta Kappa chapter (not the reason the Georgia Baptist Convention [SBC] cut ties with them, but it probably didn’t help!)
- Nancy Grace - cable news opinion show warlord
- Ed Roberts - “father of the personal computer”
- L. Lin Wood - lawyer who, thanks to post-2020 presidential election dumbass behavior, chose to surrender his law license and retire rather than be disbarred, but on a positive note for him, he didn’t get indicted last week in Georgia with the rest of those traitors
- John Birch - the namesake of the lunatic society (sensing a theme here!)
- Steadman V. Sanford - former chancellor of the University System of Georgia, and the namesake of Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia
- Wally Butts - head football coach at Georgia from 1939-60
- This guy who edited Mercer’s Wikipedia page probably like 5 years ago and no one has noticed
Great Moments in Mercer Athletics
Beating Duke 78-71 in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Personally, this is my only and favorite memory related to Mercer athletics. I chose the full game replay because on this blog, we celebrate Duke basketball tasing pain.
The Blue Devils led 63-58 with 4:45 to play and got outscored 20-8 the rest of the way. That, friends, is the good stuff.
What About the Football Team in 2023?
I watched some of their game last weekend against North Alabama, and it was not visually pleasing stuff. While they did shutdown the Lions, their offense accomplished the following:
- 4.1 yards/play
- 0.24 points/play (for comparison, Ole Miss averaged 0.447 last season)
- 3.2 yards/rush on 53 carries
Not exactly an explosive performance.
A few weeks ago, I noted Mercer’s success last year on offense:
While those in attendance will get a taste of nature’s BROIL setting, they may also be treated to an annoying game. Mercer finished 7th in FCS total offense last season and 6th in points per game (38.2), which indicates they know what they’re doing.
In fact, one coach I follow on Twitter says they have one of the “most creative schemes in the country.” When you’re overhauling a defense with average-ish talent, that matchup is not exactly slowly wading into the water.
The Bears also return their top two wide receivers (both were all-conference players in 2022), but they are replacing their starting quarterback. However, that same coach notes Mercer has one of the most well-designed screen games he’s seen.
Maybe they wanted to keep it basic as hell last week, but a low-scoring, four-quarter battle with North Alabama is not a great sign for the offensive success being replicated this year, especially against superior teams.
Please remind me of this when the aforementioned screen game is the source of SIGNIFICANT irritation on Saturday.