Auburn opened the season with a 42-16 win over the Mercer Bears Saturday to start the 2022 season. The Tigers had to wait for their first win as lighting forced an hour and 27-minute delay in the third quarter.
Auburn scored the first 28 points to seize control of the game and never looked back. Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter led the way offensively, combining for five rushing touchdowns and 181 yards. In total, nine Tigers rushed for 285 yards and five scores on 41 carries.
T.J. Finley was Auburn’s starting quarterback but backup quarterback Robby Ashford played early and showed that the battle for Auburn’s starting quarterback may not be over. He subbed in for Finley on the fourth play of the game and promptly ran for eight yards. He showed his big play potential to open Auburn’s second drive, taking the ball 49 yards around the left side to set up the Tiger’s second touchdown.
After Finley started the game 8-of-9 for 100 yards and one touchdown his night took a turn. He threw two interceptions in his final four passes and finished the night 9-of-14 with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Ashford took over from Finley after his second interception and attempted his first pass, a dropped screen pass. He didn’t let that deter him, completing his next two passes, a third-down conversion to Tar'Varish Dawson Jr. and a beautiful 56-yard pass to Ja'Varrius Johnson.
Ashford led the final three drives of the night, with the offense touchdowns on the first two and turning it over on downs on their final drive of the night. He finished the night 4-of-7 for 100 yards and rushing for 68 yards on six carries.
Ashford showed enough that the battle to be the starting quarterback is not over and will bleed into the rest of the season.
The defense showed why they project to be the strength of the team, holding Mercer’s offense to 16 points and 4.0 just yards per play a week after they scored 66 points.
Cam Riley showed why the coaching staff is so high on him. He led Auburn with 15 tackles and one quarterback hurry. Nehemiah Pritchett also showed why he is the new top corner, making three tackles and breaking up two passes.
Auburn will return to action Sat. 10 against San Jose State (1-0) in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
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