AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Kamryn Pettway ran for 128 yards and three touchdowns as No. 15 Auburn overcame five turnovers to hold off FCS school Mercer 24-10 Saturday in another troubling performance by the Tigers' offense.
After being held without a touchdown in a 14-6 loss at third-ranked Clemson the previous week, Auburn (2-1) could at least point to a stout defensive opponent as the reason for its troubles.
Not this time.
Mercer (1-2), which only resumed its football program five years ago and plays a division down in the Southern Conference, gave the Tigers all they could handle, much to a chagrin of a disgruntled crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium - many of whom didn't bother returning to their seats after a lackluster first half in which the Southeastern Conference powerhouse led only 10-3.
Much of Auburn's woes could be attributed to an inability to hold onto the ball. The Tigers lost three fumbles in the first half and another returning a punt on what should've been their first possession of the second half. Jason Stidham also had an interception when Kam Lott ripped the ball away from Nate Craig-Myers , a lackluster effort by the intended receiver that symbolized the entire afternoon.
The Bears (1-2) fell behind 17-3 on Pettway's second TD, a 9-yard run midway through the third quarter. But the private school from Macon, Georgia made things interesting with its only drive of any significance in the game. Mercer pushed 83 yards in 12 plays, capped by Kaelan Riley's 7-yard scoring pass to Marquise Irvin with just less than 14 minutes to go.
Even when the Tigers managed to keep possession of the ball, they couldn't help but shoot themselves in the foot. After Riley's TD pass, Auburn drove downfield for what should have been a decisive score. But two holding penalties and an unsportsmanlike conduct kept the Tigers from reaching the end zone, and normally dependable kicker Daniel Carlson hooked a chip-shot attempt from 26 yards to keep Mercer within range of a massive upset.
The Bears couldn't take advantage of the opportunity. Auburn finally put the game away with Pettway's third TD - a 4-yard run with 4:50 remaining .
But the Tigers were more relieved than excited when this one ended.