Terps feel Orange crush

Quick-strike offense lifts No. 5 Florida to rout of 6th-ranked UM

Grossman: 4 TD passes

Benched QB's return puts Gators in gear

Terps end season 10-2

Orange Bowl : Florida 56, Maryland 23

January 03, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

MIAMI - Down the road, Maryland's football program should be better for its Orange Bowl experience.

But the learning experience was humbling last night, as the No. 6 Terrapins received a 56-23 beating from fifth-ranked Florida before 73,640 at Pro Player Stadium.

The here and now was a display of dominance by the Gators (10-2), who overcame the disappointment of a loss to Tennessee at the end of the season and the distraction of quarterback Rex Grossman's surprise benching because of a curfew violation.

It was an insufficient hindrance against the Terps (10-2), who had become the Cinderella team of the Bowl Championship Series by dint of an 11-year bowl drought that ended when they won the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Grossman, the Heisman Trophy runner-up who was benched by Gators coach Steve Spurrier for missing curfew last week, entered with 6:03 left in the first half and immediately changed the game.

Grossman directed scoring drives on his first six possessions. On his first four, the Gators went 72, 64, 65 and 74 yards. With 10 minutes left in the game, he'd already thrown four scoring passes and compiled nearly 250 passing yards.

Before he entered the game, Florida had turned the ball over three times, two on interceptions thrown by starter Brock Berlin. The Terps trailed only 14-10 went Berlin went out and Grossman came in.

Grossman wasn't the only Gator piling up big numbers. Running back Earnest Graham had topped 150 yards and scored two touchdowns through three quarters.

Florida got offense from an unexpected source - wide-out Taylor Jacobs, their fourth-leading receiver.

He had 10 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns halfway through the fourth quarter.

Maryland hadn't won a league title since 1985 and had entered the season picked to finish seventh in the conference. This was a reflection of a new leader, Ralph Friedgen, in his first head-coaching job and inheriting a squad that had gone 5-6 in 2000 and lost its two most talented players, LaMont Jordan and Kris Jenkins.

While six wins was the common prediction for Friedgen's first season, the Terps had won their first seven games, led by ACC Players of the Year Bruce Perry and E.J. Henderson.

After defeating N.C. State in its last game of the regular season, Maryland clinched the ACC title to qualify for a Bowl Championship Series berth and eventually the Orange Bowl.

Florida was an unexpected participant, originally projected to possibly play for the national championship. That goal was still in reach until the Gators lost to Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee in their last game of the season.

In contrast to the Maryland elation - as evidenced by the 22,000 tickets it sold to the game - Florida's malaise was seen as a possible loophole through which the Terps could run to another surprise win.

But Florida proved too fast and too strong, building a 28-10 halftime lead en route to its dominating victory.

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