After addressing a few takeaways from the Auburn game two weeks ago, head football coach Drew Cronic described how he is feeling as his team takes on the Citadel this Saturday. The team and staff are excited to host their first conference game of the season at Five Star Stadium as they take on the Bulldogs, who just defeated Eastern Tennessee State University, the reigning conference champions.
“It’ll be a great challenge for us to get out there and move the ball,” Cronic said. “I’m excited to watch our kids play”.
Offensively, the team is going to need to work hard to move the ball and capitalize on their possessions. The Citadel runs a variation of the triple option offense, allowing the clock to run and keeping their opponent from having many offensive opportunities. The Bulldogs also do a great job of stopping teams in the red zone, so the Bears’ offense is going to have to focus on finishing with touchdowns inside the 5 and 10-yard lines.
“I want us to be really physical,” Chronic said. “They’re a team that kind of grinds and grinds and keeps it close and it wears you down. It gets to you in the fourth quarter.”
The defense will need to work to stay sound and disciplined against the Bulldogs. The Citadel quarterback, Payton Derrick, transferred from Wofford and has control of his new team. Mercer will have to tackle well and get in between the ball and Citadel receivers. Mercer’s defensive coordinator, Joel Taylor was on the Citadel’s coaching staff before coming to Macon, so he has been using his knowledge of the team to help prepare the Bears.
“I think we defended them last year extremely well,” Cronic said. “I think we just gave up seven points last year, so I know [Joel] is excited about that opportunity to slow them down.”
In preparation for this week, the coaches have been working their players hard after facing Auburn. Getting back to fundamentals and fixing self-inflicted errors has been a focus at practice the past two weeks. The bye week also gave the players a chance to not only prepare but rest as well.
“When you're trying to get a program to a championship level, you can't get ahead of yourself, you got to do the little things right,” Cronic said.
Quarterback Fred Payton can attest to the practices that have been more intense than normal. He agreed that there were trivial mistakes in the Auburn game that could be fixed to make them competitive against any team they play.
“I want to keep being a leader and showing that I have faith in my guys because they’re the ones around me that make the team go just as much as I do,” Payton said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be able to have the success that I have.”
The defense has a lot of young players, so as a leader on defense, Lance Wise has stepped up on and off the field. He has faith in both the offense and defense in the game, but more than anything he said this group has a tight-knit bond compared to recent years.
“You’ll see us hanging out outside of football and just trying to make sure that we are for each other off the field,” Wise said. “If we’re for each other off the field, then on the field it’ll be easy.”
Kickoff on Saturday will be at 6 p.m. at Five Star Stadium. Tailgating will take place on Black Field where Mitchell Tenpenny and Mackenzie Carpenter will be performing as part of the 2022 Ford Concert Series.