Thursday, January 03, 2002

Benched Grossman fuels Florida's rout

Gators gain 659 yards in Orange Bowl

The Associated Press

Rex Grossman fires downfield Wednesday at the Orange Bowl.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        MIAMI — This starting stuff is overrated. Banished to the bench for the first 20 minutes of the Orange Bowl, Rex Grossman led Florida to touchdowns on his first six drives and the No.5 Gators set record after record in a 56-23 crushing of No.6 Maryland on Wednesday night.

        Grossman threw for 248 yards and four touchdowns. Another so-called backup, third receiver Taylor Jacobs, caught 10 passes for 170 yards, both Orange Bowl records, to help turn coach Steve Spurrier's quarterback shuffle into a stunning offensive highlight show.

        Jabar Gaffney caught two touchdowns for Florida and tailback Earnest Graham ran for 149 yards and two scores. Florida gained 659 yards to break a 49-year-old Orange Bowl record, and the Gators showed they might, indeed, have the most talent in the nation, even though they're not playing for the national title in the Rose Bowl.

        “It was kind of tough, because we didn't make it where we want to be,” Jacobs said. “But everything worked itself out.”

        Seemingly determined to prove his team's greatness, Spurrier kept Grossman in the game deep into the fourth quarter, and when he threw a long pass incomplete with four minutes left, the dwindling Maryland crowd booed.

        But that was hardly the worst of it for the Terrapins (10-2), whose magical season — the Atlantic Coast Conference title, first bowl appearance in 11 seasons, second winning season in a decade — came to a resoundingly disappointing close.

        Jacobs also caught two touchdown passes — one from first-time starter Brock Berlin, one from Grossman — as the Gators (10-2) rolled to a rout, hardly distracted when Spurrier unexpectedly yanked Grossman from the starting lineup for missing curfew.

        Berlin, strongly considering transferring to Miami next season, went 11-for-19 for 196 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions, both the result of badly misjudged throws into double coverage.

        His six drives to open the game produced two touchdowns and two interceptions, a bunch of nice passes and a handful of dreadful ones, a slim 14-10 lead despite a prolific 224 yards in total offense.

        Was it enough to sway him to return to Florida?

        “Who knows, man? Who knows?” Berlin said. “You never know what could happen. I haven't made up my mind, to tell you the truth.”

        While Berlin played, Grossman stood on the sideline with his helmet on, ready to go. Then, his time came.

        “Brock did OK,” Spurrier said at halftime. “But we just thought it was time for Rex to go in there.”

        The Heisman Trophy runner-up entered to big cheers with 6:03 left in the second quarter and showed exactly how he earned the starting position and kept it through all 11 regular-season games.

        There were too many highlights to count, but the second touchdown — both the drive and the scoring pass — were testament to how he became Florida's No.1 quarterback.

        He directed a six-play, 64-yard touchdown drive that started with 1:25 left in the first half. The scoring play was a perfect lob in coverage to Gaffney, a pass that only a quarterback with perfect knowledge of his receiver's capabilities would dare throw. It gave Florida a 28-10 lead.

        Gaffney finished with seven catches for 118 yards, but Jacobs was the best receiver on this night. His presence is one of a number of reasons Florida's passing game works so well.

        Jacobs is the third-string receiver, behind Gaffney and Reche Caldwell, but he's the fastest player on the team, and he can catch. Not too many teams in the country have enough good defensive backs to cover them all.

        Maryland certainly didn't, and the record book will reflect that.

        His 10 receptions equaled the record set by David Terrell of Michigan in the 2000 Orange Bowl. The 170 yards were 11 more than the record held by Alabama's Ray Perkins (1966) and Florida's Travis Taylor (1999). Jacobs also broke Florida's all-time bowl receiving record (166 yards, Cris Collinsworth in the 1980 Tangerine Bowl vs. Maryland).

        The teams combined for 79 points, breaking the combined record of 69 set by Texas and Georgia in 1949.

        Florida's 659 yards surpassed the 596 gained against Syracuse in the 1953 Orange Bowl by Alabama.

        Florida ....... 14 14 21 7—56 Maryland ....... 7 3 0 13—23 First Quarter

        Fla—Graham 1 run (Chandler kick), 9:51.

        Fla—Taylor 46 pass from Berlin (Chandler kick), :12.

        Mary—Williams 64 pass from Hill (Novak kick), :00.
       Second Quarter

        Mary—FG Barnard 20, 12:20.

        Fla—Taylor 15 pass from Grossman (Chandler kick), 2:18.

        Fla—Gaffney 4 pass from Grossman (Chandler kick), :03.
       Third Quarter

        Fla—Graham 6 run (Chandler kick), 11:22.

        Fla—Gillespie 11 run (Chandler kick), 7:26.

        Fla—Gaffney 33 pass from Grossman (Chandler kick), 2:52.
       Fourth Quarter

        Mary—Riley 1 run (Novak kick), 11:56.

        Fla—Perez 10 pass from Grossman (Chandler kick), 10:16.

        Mary—Riley 10 run (pass failed), 5:10.
       Fla Mary First downs ....... 30   19 Rushes-yards ....... 25-203  40-103 Passing ....... 456   257 Punt Returns ....... 3-13   0-0 Kickoff Returns ....... 3-76   9-123 Interceptions Ret. ....... 1-4   2-66 Comp-Att-Int ....... 33-49-2  23-39-1 Sacked-Yards Lost ....... 3-14   2-21 Punts-Avg. ....... 2-53.0  5-46.2 Fumbles-Lost ....... 2-1   0-0 Penalties-Yards ....... 6-43   4-20 Time of Possession ....... 28:26   31:34 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

        RUSHING—Florida, Graham 16-149, Gillespie 4-63, Sitter 2-9, Berlin 3-(minus 18). Maryland, Hill 11-31, Riley 9-23, Perry 11-22, Parson 4-18, Killian 1-10, Lynch 3-9, Williams 1-(minus 10).

        PASSING—Florida, Berlin 11-19-2-196, Grossman 20-28-0-248, Creveling 2-2-0-12. Maryland, Hill 23-39-1-257.

        RECEIVING—Florida, Jacobs 10-170, Gaffney 7-118, Caldwell 4-47, Gillespie 4-29, Perez 2-31, Kight 2-18, Troupe 2-16, Haugebrook 1-16, Roberts 1-11. Maryland, Murphy 5-42, Williams 4-91, Gary 4-35, Parson 3-46, Perry 3-27, Whitmer 2-14, Crawford 2-2.
       MISSED FIELD GOAL—Maryland, Novak 46 (WL).


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