The momentum of two early wins on the road seemed destined to carry the Bears to a win in their first home game of 2019.
In fact, it seemed certain it would happen when David Durden, returned the opening kickoff 78 yards to set up the Bears inside the red zone on their first play from scrimmage. The drive stalled though, and Mercer had to settle for a 28-yard field goal off of the excellent field position.
Austin Peay University responded quickly with a three-minute drive capped off by a 5-yard touchdown run to take a 7-3 lead. The Bears were not to be outdone though, and Robert Riddle tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Durden less than three minutes later to give Mercer a 10-7 lead just halfway through the first quarter.
The defense came up big at this point, as the teams traded punts and field goals for the rest of the first half. After a 39 yard Austin Peay touchdown pass was overturned and placed on the 1-yard line thanks to video review, the Bears’ defense clung desperately to a 13-10 lead with mere seconds remaining in the first half.
A strong goal-line stand forced the Governors to settle for a field goal and the teams entered halftime tied 13-13.
Unfortunately, the Bears bid to start 3-0 fell apart in the second half.
Austin Peay took their first drive of the second half down the field and punched it in on a 5-yard touchdown pass to take a 20-13 lead. On the ensuing Mercer drive, quarterback Riddle threw his first pick-six of the game to give Austin Peay a 27-13 lead just nine seconds after the Governors had scored their first touchdown of the second half.
On the Bears’ next possession Riddle threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Chris Ellington cutting the deficit to 27-20 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter, but that was the closest the Bears would be for the rest of the game.
Neither team scored again for the rest of the quarter, but on the first play of the fourth quarter, Austin Peay once again found the end zone on a 3-yard touchdown run to take a 34-20 lead. Mercer took the ball and began a promising drive down the field, but the drive came screeching to a halt when Riddle threw his second pick-six of the game: effectively putting the final nail in Mercer’s coffin by giving Austin Peay a 41-20 lead.
Riddle threw two more touchdown passes to Brandon Mays and Durden respectively, but it was not enough to overcome the deficit and the Bears fell 48-34.
Despite their strong first-half performance, the Bears suffered from inconsistency, uncreative playcalling, and questionable decisions in the final thirty minutes, all of which led to a sloppy loss in their first home game.
The Bears (2-1) traveled to the Furman Paladins (1-2) for their second SOCON game of the season on Sept. 21. The Bears lost 10 to 45.