AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn met a confident FCS foe Saturday, and it made for closer-than-desired finish for the Tigers.
Mercer entered Jordan-Hare Stadium and put its name on the national stage, keeping the game close late into the fourth quarter. Ultimately, Auburn pulled away with a 24-10 victory on homecoming.
Mercer coach Bobby Lamb met with reporters after the game and spoke about the experience playing against a high-level SEC opponent.
Here are the highlights of what he had to say about the Tigers and the game:
Mercer coach Bobby Lamb
- On being within a score late in the game: “Let me first of all say, I am going to summarize what I told the team. We are sitting there with 8:50 left in the game. You look up and it is 17-10, we just forced a field goal miss and we have the ball. We probably had the poorest series of the night. That had something to do with Auburn making adjustments. We went three-and-out, had to punt and had the poorest punt of the night, and then we get a targeting [penalty]. Then, of course, they get a really short field and score to put the game away. Those are mistakes that we cannot make against a team like this, but then on the flip side, you would have given anything to be in that situation going into this game when you look at it on tape.”
- On preparations for Auburn: “I did not look much at the Clemson game because they don’t have the caliber athletes that we have. But we concentrated a lot on the Georgia Southern tape. Georgia Southern had 78 total yards. So, you’re thinking when you come into these big stadiums, they have that big scoreboard with the yardage chart up there. You’re like, ‘Oh gosh, this ain’t gonna be good.’ But I cannot say enough about our team and the effort they gave.”
- On defensive effort and forcing five turnovers: “We have plastered all over our building, ‘The Ball Is The Issue.’ We strive on takeaways. Those balls were ripped out. We try to practice stripping the ball. Then, on offense, we really protected the ball well. Overall, it was just one of those games that you could just feel on the sidelines that everyone was engaged, even the players that weren’t playing a lot, they were engaged in the game. I made a comment in the huddle and the players laughed a little bit. We were in a timeout situation and it was 17-10. I said, ‘Guys I told y’all right now on ESPN they have: Upset Alert, Mercer Bears. I can tell you that right now we have an opportunity,’ and they started laughing, but you have to keep them loose in a game like this. People certainly found out a little about Mercer football on a national stage today.”
- On conversation with Gus Malzahn after the game: “He said that we have a good program. You could tell he was glad this game was over. He said. ‘Your kids played extremely hard.’ Any time a coach says something like that, it is the ultimate factor, that your kids are playing hard. Because at the end of the day you got 70 guys to play hard, and it’s not an easy job.”
- On biggest differences between Auburn and Mercer: “Yeah, and you can see it in the third quarter. I got a little nervous during the third quarter, because you could see the 85-scholarship to 63-scholarship factor, because we started running a big hill. Talent-wise, I think some of our guys were as talented as some of their guys, and at the end of the day, it comes down to numbers. It was a big step forward. We have a huge road game against East Tennessee and to prepare our team for games that come down to the fourth quarter, that’s what happened last week, that’s what happened this week, and you got to be ready to challenge people in the fourth quarter.”
- On playing conservatively against Auburn’s defense: “If you noticed in the first half, we were a little more conservative with playing with any change. We did not try a whole lot because when you play a team like this, we have to double team their big players. We ran our insides so we could double team those guys. Sometimes, we got 2 yards, but sometimes we got 7. So, it was a good job with calls during the first half, even in the second half we opened up a little bit, but it was good to get a couple of interceptions in the second half to push the ball down the field.”