Backup quarterback Joe Gagliardi came off the bench to rally Rutgers and complete a two-point conversion pass to Curtis Stephens with 35 seconds remaining as the Scarlet Knights, trailing by 21 points at one point, tied third-ranked Florida, 28-28, Saturday.
Gagliardi, who replaced starter Eric Hochberg with Rutgers trailing, 28-14, moved the Scarlet Knights 65 yards to pull within eight points on Albert Smith’s one-yard touchdown run. Seven minutes later, Gagliardi tossed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Campbell to make it 28-26.
The senior quarterback then hit Stephens for a two-point conversion that ended the nation’s longest winning streak at 10 games.
Florida (1-0-1) still has the country’s longest unbeaten streak--12 games--dating back to a 32-20 loss to Miami on Sept. 1, 1984.
The Gators appeared to have the contest in hand when Coach Galen Hall replaced quarterback Kerwin Bell with Rodney Brewer in the third quarter. Bell had passed for 230 yards and three touchdowns as Florida built a 28-7 lead.
By the time the Florida starter returned with 7:20 to go in the game, Brewer had thrown two interceptions and lost a fumble as Rutgers cut its deficit to 28-20.
Rutgers defensive tackle Todd McIver returned one of the interceptions 48 yards for a touchdown that made it 28-14, and the fumble preceded Smith’s touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
Hall did not say why he replaced Bell. “It was my decision and mine alone,” he said.
About Brewer’s performance, Hall said: “Rodney Brewer moved the team like we wanted, but I replaced him with Kerwin only because I thought Kerwin could get us in a better position to win.”