- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2001

It's "the Fridge" vs. "Steve Superior."
Maryland got what it expected yesterday when it learned it will play Florida in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2. The sixth-ranked Terrapins will take on the No. 5 Gators at Pro Player Stadium in Miami as part of the Bowl Championship Series.
The ACC champion Terps and Gators took decidedly different routes to South Florida. Maryland (10-1) is riding high after a stunning regular season that produced its first conference championship since 1985. Florida (9-2) expected to be playing for the national championship in the Rose Bowl before Tennessee's shocking 34-32 upset victory at Florida Field on Dec. 1.
"We didn't have as good a year as we would have liked," said Florida coach Steve Spurrier, who was in a rare, subdued mood yesterday. "You have to win your close games to go all the way."
Spurrier said most of the right things during a teleconference. The feisty coach called playing Maryland "a challenge" but wasn't particularly complimentary toward the Terps. Orange Bowl CEO Keith Tribble said Florida was chosen for the bowl over Tennessee because of its higher BCS and national rankings, plus its ability to bring fans to an in-state venue.
While the Gators were licking their wounds, the mood in College Park couldn't have been more different.
"Our team is in a state of euphoria," said first-year Terps coach Ralph Friedgen, who led Maryland to its first postseason appearance since 1990. "They are almost giddy. There was a tremendous enthusiasm in practice today."
Friedgen will be handling rumors as well as practices for the next few weeks as his name is thrown out for various coaching vacancies. The first one came up yesterday when George O'Leary left Georgia Tech to take over at Notre Dame. Friedgen spent nine seasons over two stints as an assistant with the Yellow Jackets before leaving Atlanta for College Park after last season.
"I am happy where I am," said Friedgen, who said his only concern was getting the Terps prepared for the Orange Bowl.
Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said she had not been contacted by Georgia Tech to talk to the coach and added, "We will do whatever it takes to keep Ralph." Friedgen's overall package is reportedly worth $800,000 a season, and Yow said the contract has a "significant buyout" but not as high as "seven figures."
The Terps returned to practice yesterday for the first time since their thrilling 23-19 win over N.C. State that clinched the ACC title and a BCS berth.
In Miami, the Terps will face a pass-happy Florida team loaded with speed and led by Heisman Trophy runner-up Rex Grossman. The Gators' only losses were to Tennessee and to Auburn on a last-minute field goal. Florida easily handled Florida State, which dealt Maryland its only loss.
"I know they have a great quarterback, and that's pretty much it," Maryland linebacker Aaron Thompson said. "I know they are better than Florida State."
But the Terps say they won't be intimidated by a storied Florida program despite likely being a prohibitive underdog in the Gators' home state. After all, Maryland already has overcome heavy odds in rising from obscurity to a champion deserving to be on the same field as a perennial power like Florida.
Other players said going to the Orange Bowl for the first time since losses to Oklahoma in 1954 and 1956 is a perfect ending for a program that suffered five consecutive losing seasons.
All-ACC cornerback Tony Okanlawon has been working out with the team after missing the last four games of the regular season with an undisclosed medical condition. Friedgen expects to determine tomorrow whether he can play in the bowl game . … Maryland has sold 12,000 of its mandated allotment of 15,000 tickets.

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