MACON, Ga. (AP) Fred Payton threw five touchdown passes and Mercer rolled up 577 yards on offense in a 55-33 victory over East Tennessee State on Saturday.
Payton threw four TD passes in the first half as the Bears built a 28-10 lead in the second quarter on the way to a 28-20 halftime lead.
ETSU closed to within five points twice in the second half, only to be thwarted each time. With Mercer leading 28-23 midway through the third quarter, Devron Harper scored on a 48-yard run for the Bears. Early in the fourth, Mercer led 38-33 before Payton threw his fifth TD pass - 31 yards to Ty James - for a 45-33 lead. After a Mercer field goal, Mike Campbell's 41-yard interception return for a touchdown capped the scoring for the No. 12 FCS Bears (6-1, 4-0 Southern Conference).
Payton completed 23 of 35 passes for 383 yards with the five touchdowns and one interception. James had seven receptions for 120 yards with two touchdowns. Drake Starks scored on both of his receptions totaling 25 yards and Brandon Marshall caught three passes for 110 yards.
Tyler Riddell was 20-of-35 passing for 206 yards with one touchdown for ETSU (3-4, 1-4). The Buccaneers were 4-of-18 converting third down but perfect in five tries on fourth down. Tyler Keltner made four field goals in five tries.
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