Tough end to Terps' big year

Florida's Grossman comes off bench to lead rout of UM

Orange Bowl : Florida 56, Maryland 23

January 03, 2002|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

MIAMI - A 15-point underdog in its first New Year's bowl game in 25 years, the University of Maryland football team had a chance as long as Florida quarterback Rex Grossman remained on the bench last night at the 68th Orange Bowl.

Once Grossman, the Heisman Trophy runner-up and Associated Press National Player of the Year, served his punishment for breaking curfew last week, the Terps were doomed to defeat before an announced crowd of 73,640 at Pro Player Stadium. Maryland's miracle season finished with a harsh dose of big-time college football reality, as a Gators team that began the season ranked atop the nation whipped the Terps, 56-23.

The Terps went 10-0 this season outside the state of Florida - their only other loss came at Florida State. Coach Ralph Friedgen's inaugural season was nonetheless a rousing success, as he turned around a program that had one winning season to show for the previous 10.

Florida starter Brock Berlin threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter, but the Terps forced three turnovers and came alive on the last play of the first quarter, when Shaun Hill threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Jafar Williams. Maryland drew within 14-10 on a 20-yard field goal from Nick Novak, but Grossman entered with 6:03 left in the first half and guided the Gators on five long touchdown drives over the next 19 minutes.

Grossman capped a nifty two-minute drill and buried Maryland under a 28-10 halftime deficit with a 4-yard flip to All-America wide receiver Jabar Gaffney three seconds before halftime. He didn't stop there, as Florida set an Orange Bowl record for team passing yards.

Maryland earned a berth in one of the four Bowl Championship Series games by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time since 1985.

Pundits pointed out the Terps took advantage of a down year for Florida State and the rest of the conference, but the ACC won four of its first five bowls this postseason and Maryland hung tough for 26 minutes against a Gators team that was supposed to have too much speed and too many athletes for the Terps.

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