- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

MIAMI Brooks Barnard's eye was glued to a camcorder as the Maryland football player recorded every minute of the Terrapins' historic journey to South Florida yesterday. The Terps' rise from mediocrity to ACC champions has landed them among the palm trees and tropical shores of Miami.
Sixth-ranked Maryland will conclude its magical football season in its first bowl in more than a decade when it faces No.5 Florida in the Orange Bowl Jan.2. The venture to a big game in this vacationers' paradise sends the team into unchartered territory on and off the field.
"This is my first time ever seeing blue water," said Terps tailback Bruce Perry after being mesmerized by the clear, baby-blue surf. "It's been a long road but it's finally paying off. We get to see things and travel to places that we've never seen before. It's a good feeling."
The Terps (10-1) are discovering Miami thanks to their first winning season in six years, and first ACC title since 1985. Maryland players are documenting the BCS bowl appearance in a spot usually reserved for tradition-rich programs like Florida State or Oklahoma. Maryland's last appearance in the Miami showcase was 1956.
"We could see the water getting bluer and bluer as we started descending on the plane," said Barnard, one of countless Terps filming as the team bus pulled up at the team's beachfront hotel. "People started getting real excited. I think everybody is really starting to absorb the excitement."
The Maryland players returned from a three-day Christmas break to College Park late Tuesday, and caught an early morning charter yesterday. The only glitch being reserve tight end Eric James missed the 7:45 a.m. bus to BWI and didn't make the trip. As of yesterday afternoon, coach Ralph Friedgen was unsure if the seldom-used senior would rejoin the team.
The Terps conducted their first Florida practice in the afternoon at Barry University, where they experienced unseasonable chilly temperatures combined with a brisk wind. Friedgen plans to let them enjoy the exotic locale the first few days and then "pull in the reins" as game day nears. The first-year coach has warned his players to take it easy with the sun and tempting distractions of South Beach nightlife.
"I want to make it an enjoyable experience and also a rewarding one," Friedgen said. "We are mixing business with pleasure. You have to be mature about it. What we are down here to do is play a football game."
Florida is expected to arrive today. The Gators (9-2) are a 16-point favorite, led by the Associated Press national Player of the Year and Heisman runner-up Rex Grossman, quarterback of the nation's top offense.
The Terps did receive good news in the secondary as safety Tony Jackson practiced at full speed after suffering a sprained ankle and wearing a medical boot last week. Cornerback Tony Okanlawon made the trip and is expected to play after missing the last four games with an undisclosed medical condition.
Maryland has had plenty of time to digest its terrific season and will have had a 46-day layoff the most of any bowl team when it finally plays in Pro Player Stadium. The Terps will practice in full pads and have hitting drills today and tomorrow in hopes of shaking off the rust.
But the Terps also plan to enjoy themselves as they train. Several players immediately dropped off their bags yesterday and went outside to check out the beach and massive pool that will serve as their front yard the next week. And many planned on sampling the world-renowned nightlife once their football day ended.
"I heard it's a city where you don't get much sleep," Perry said. "I'm not going to get that much sleep. We have to realize we still have a game to play. We're going to enjoy it, but be ready to play. That's the challenge."
It's a challenge Maryland and its long-suffering fans have longed for. "It's been a long time," linebacker E.J. Henderson said. "It's a pretty good feeling being in Miami."


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide