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A Real Bell Ringer : Florida Stuns Fifth-Ranked Auburn, 18-17, as Junior Quarterback Comes Off the Bench to Lead 18-Point Rally in the Fourth Quarter

November 02, 1986|Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida's Kerwin Bell added another chapter to his rags-to-riches story Saturday.

The junior quarterback led a furious 18-point, fourth-quarter rally that carried the Gators to an 18-17 Southeastern Conference upset of fifth-ranked Auburn.

Bell, returning from a knee injury that had sidelined him for two games, came off the bench to run for one touchdown and throw for another as Florida overcame a 17-0 deficit.

Bell, who rose from fifth-string as a walk-on freshman to lead the Gators to 9-1-1 records each of the past years, capped his performance by scrambling for a two-point conversion that put Florida ahead with 36 seconds to go.

"We knew they hadn't had to play hard in the second half all year," said Bell, who entered the game after starting quarterback Rodney Brewer lost two fumbles and was intercepted twice in the first half.

"We felt if we could come back and make it close we could win it. That's the good thing about playing such a tough schedule, it gets us ready for a game like this."

Bell, who completed 17 of 31 passes for 182 yards, threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Nattiel to set the stage for the two-point conversion that set off a wild celebration among the 74,521 fans at Florida Field.

"I was trying to get the ball to Ricky again, then I saw the left side of the field was open so I just headed that way," Bell said. "I was just hoping I would get there, it seems like it took me all day to get into the end zone."

The victory was the third straight for Florida, which improved to 4-4 overall and 1-3 in the SEC.

It also ended a seven-game winning streak for previously unbeaten Auburn (7-1, 4-1), and knocked the Tigers out of a first-place tie in the conference.

"Kerwin Bell made some great plays and completed the passes he had to under pressure," Auburn Coach Pat Dye said. "They did it when they had to. We didn't.

"The loss is tough on our players, coaches and fans, but we want to run the whole race before we give it up. Sure, it's disappointing, but we'll be back next week."

Auburn used two of Florida's seven turnovers to set up a pair of first-half touchdowns and led, 17-0, after three quarters with the help of tailback Brent Fullwood. The SEC rushing leader gained 166 yards and scored a touchdown in 27 carries.

Bell launched Florida's comeback with a 10-play, 79-yard touchdown drive that he finished with a one-yard sneak with 12:09 left to play. A 51-yard field goal by Robert McGinty, a transfer from Auburn, trimmed the Gators' deficit to 17-10 with 7:10 remaining.

The winning touchdown drive started from the Florida 34-yard line after Webbie Burnett recovered a Reggie Ware fumble with 1:41 to go.

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