AUBURN – It wasn't pretty, but the Auburn Tigers overcame five turnovers to defeat the Mercer Bears 24-10 at homecoming Saturday afternoon.
The first Auburn turnover came just 1:32 into the contest when, after moving the ball down to the Mercer 30, Jarrett Stidham completed a pass to Kyle Davis, who was stripped of the ball by LeMarkus Bailey. Bailey fell on the ball for the Bears. However, Mercer was unable to capitalize and was forced to punt the ball back to the Tigers.
The Tigers and Bears traded punts for the next nine minutes until Auburn took over on its own 15 with 4:38 left in the quarter.
Kamryn Pettway got the drive going with back-to-back rushes totaling 6 yards. Stidham then found Eli Stove up the left sideline for 12 yards on a third-and-4. Following a false start penalty, Stidham completed a pass to Will Hastings for 27 yards. Pettway followed with a rush over left guard for 22 yards down to the Mercer 23. Five plays later, Pettway was in the end zone, running over two defenders on his way to a 4-yard touchdown. Daniel Carlson added the PAT to give Auburn a 7-0 lead with the clock winding down in the first.
Following two Mercer punts in the second, the latter of which pinned Auburn at its own 4, the Tigers were again plagued by turnovers. Stadium found Stove in the flat for 6 yards to the Auburn 27, but the ball was punched out by Stephen Houzah and recovered by Lee Bennett for Mercer on the Auburn 27.
With its back to the wall, the Auburn defense bent, but did not break, holding Mercer to a 21-yard field goal from Cole Fisher to make the score 7-3.
Auburn put together an impressive drive on its next possession. Starting at the Auburn 25, the Tigers marched the ball all the way down to the Mercer 7. Again with the turnover, when Pettway was hit behind the line for a 2-yard loss and fumbled the ball. Jalen Penn fell on the ball for Mercer to end the Tigers' drive.
Following the turnover, the Auburn defense came up big once more, forcing a three-and-out by Mercer. Starting from its own 44, Auburn marched the ball into Mercer territory thanks to the arm of Stidham and the legs of Pettway. The drive ended on a 29-yard field goal from Carlson to give Auburn a 10-3 lead heading to the half.
Mercer got the ball to start the second half and was again forced into a three-and-out, but on the punt, Ryan Davis fumbled the ball and Stephen Nixon fell on it at the Auburn 49 for Mercer. The Bears marched the ball down to the Auburn 24 where the defense came up big again, holding Tanner Brumby 2 yards short of the first on fourth-and-4. This gave Auburn the ball on its own 22.
Fired up by the defensive stand, the Auburn offense went to work. Stidham took the Tigers down the field on 10 plays for 78 yards, capped by Pettway rush over the right tackle for a 9-yard touchdown. Carlson added the PAT to put the Tigers on top 17-3.
Another three-and-out gave the ball back to Auburn, and it was… another turnover; Kam Lott intercepted Stidham, and Mercer took the football back on its own 17 with 4:55 left in the third.
The Bears got the ball moving in the right direction when Kaelan Riley connected with Marquise Irvin for a 17-yard third-down conversion. The Bears continued to pick up chunks of yardage down to the Auburn 11 when time expired in the third.
Mercer continued its drive to start the fourth. They found pay dirt less than two minutes into the last frame when Riley found Marquis Irving for 7 yards over the middle for the touchdown. Fisher added the PAT to make the score 17-10 with 13:48 left to play.
The Tigers started their next drive from their own 28 and took the ball all the way down to the Mercer 9 where a Daniel Carlson field goal attempt for 26 yards out went wide left and gave the ball back to the Bears.
The Auburn defense forced a sixth three-and-out with the Tigers taking over at the Mercer 41-yard line following a Grant Goupil 33-yard punt and a 9-yard return by Stephen Roberts. The ball was moved down to the Mercer 26 following a personal foul on Kyle Trammell, who was ejected for targeting.
Auburn made the most of the field position with Pettway getting a steady dose of carries. He capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run over right guard. Carlson nailed the PAT to put Auburn up 24-10 with 4:50 left to play.
Auburn held on to win, improving to 2-1. The Tigers will open SEC play on the road next week versus Missouri.
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