- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 30, 2001

MIAMI Despite getting its top offensive player back, Maryland still is given no chance to win Wednesday night's Orange Bowl.
Tailback Bruce Perry, the ACC's Offensive Player of the Year, returned to practice yesterday after pulling an abdominal muscle Thursday. Perry's timing was a little off, but otherwise he seemed fine while taking part in morning drills at Barry University.
"I think he was at full speed," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I figured he would be back. He's doing well."
Even with Perry, the sixth-ranked Terps are considered mere fodder for No. 5 Florida, which is a 161/2-point favorite. Steve Spurrier's squad has won its nine victories by an average of 37.4 points, including a 44-15 thrashing of SEC champion Louisiana State in Baton Rouge, La., and a 37-13 romp over Florida State. The Seminoles were the only team to beat the Terps.
College football expert Beano Cook was asked recently if Maryland had any chance of upsetting Florida. The ESPN commentator replied, "None. Collect the [Orange Bowl] check and be happy."
Cook could be dismissed as a babbling talking head if virtually every other qualified observer hadn't also written off the Terps. Maryland (10-1) has enjoyed a Cinderella season, but the consensus is that midnight will arrive early at Pro Players Stadium.
"Do we care?" Maryland receiver Guilian Gary said. "We've been underdogs in so many games that we are to the point where we don't care. Who picks these lines anyway? It's not for the players, it's for people who gamble. We're here to play a game, and we are here to win."
The Terps are an afterthought despite being a conference champion playing a team that didn't even win its own SEC division. Although Florida (9-2) is ranked one only one spot higher than Maryland, the Gators could have been playing for the national championship in Thursday's Rose Bowl if not for a 34-32 loss to Tennessee in their last game.
Nonetheless, Maryland has bothered to show up in Miami despite being labeled "Gator bait." The ACC champions are getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment. As Friedgen said, "Nobody expects us to win."
Nobody except the maligned ACC champions themselves.
"We got a swagger, and we know we can play with anybody," All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson said. "That underdog stuff doesn't really matter. We've heard it before."
Florida has tradition and four All-Americans, led by Heisman Trophy runner-up Rex Grossman at quarterback and a slew of speed demons with a reputation for devouring traditionally mediocre programs like Maryland. The Terps are regarded as a gritty group of overachievers under a first-year coach who are fortunate to be here.
"It's great," said Gary of Maryland's premature burial. "We have nothing to lose. If we lose, what's going to happen: 'Oh, they were supposed to lose.' If we win, what can happen? We shock the world. That's a great situation. We are in a no-lose situation."
Florida is a lopsided favorite because it also has the nation's top offense and a gaudy advantage in speed. Grossman has three "burners" as wideouts a couple of whom likely will leave early for the NFL. The trio of All-American Jabar Gaffney, Reche Caldwell and Taylor Jacobs combined for 2,962 yards and 30 touchdowns.
The Gators also have tradition on their side as they play in their ninth consecutive New Year's bowl. Florida will finish ranked in the top 15 for a 12th straight season and plans to wrap up a seventh straight 10-win season. Maryland is in its first bowl since 1990, and first New Year's bowl in a quarter-century.
But Maryland has heard the doubters before and points out that it shocked other supposedly dominant teams like Georgia Tech on the way to pulling one of college football's greatest surprises this season by winning the ACC title.
"It's nothing new to us," cornerback Curome Cox said. "It's pretty funny. We've gone into games higher ranked than other teams all season, but yet we were still the underdogs. We have taken that underdog mentality into every game and come out ACC champs. Hopefully, we can come out Orange Bowl champs."
Note
Maryland left guard Todd Wike did not practice yesterday, and wore a medical boot after suffering a contusion on his right foot in practice Thursday.
He is expected to play against Florida.


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