- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2002

MIAMI Coach Steve Spurrier has said starting quarterback and first-team All-American Rex Grossman was likely going to give way to backup Brock Berlin in the first half of tomorrow's Orange Bowl. Turns out Berlin might play earlier than expected.

Grossman is questionable to start in the Maryland-Florida matchup after missing curfew last week. Grossman told the Associated Press, "I was a couple minutes late the second night I was here, but I don't know what [Spurrier is] going to do."

If Grossman, 21, does not start, sophomore Berlin, a high school standout who has looked into transferring to the University of Miami, will likely open the game at quarterback. Spurrier, who did not comment yesterday, has said that he was going to play Berlin in the first half of the Orange Bowl regardless.

Grossman, a sophomore who threw for 3,896 yards and 34 touchdowns this season, finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting and first in Division I-A total offense.

Wike likely out

Maryland's All-ACC guard Todd Wike will miss tomorrow's game completely or just play sparingly.

Wike wore a trash bag over the medical boot covering his right foot during yesterday afternoon's practice session. The junior left guard hasn't practiced since suffering a foot contusion when he was stepped on in practice Thursday, and will end his string of 32 consecutive starts. Freshman Kyle Schmitt will replace him.

"I don't think he'll play," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, who is hopeful Wike will be available in a limited, reserve role. "Wike's a seasoned guy. Kyle's not a bad player. He's played some. He's just a young kid. He's a redshirt freshman. I think he is going to be a real good player. Hopefully, he hurries up."

The other injury news is positive as safety Tony Jackson should be close to 100 percent after suffering a sprained right ankle two weeks ago. Tailback Bruce Perry is near full speed after recovering from an abdominal pull, and cornerback Tony Okanlawon is expected to start after missing the last four weeks of the season with an undisclosed medical condition.

Mother Nature a Terps fan?

Mother Nature may line up on the Terps' side as rain is forecast for the game.

Maryland could benefit from rainy conditions, which could help neutralize Florida's tremendous speed advantage especially at wide receiver and in the secondary. Forecasts yesterday called for a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms tomorrow night.

"If we can get it mud, it will help us," said Friedgen, after yesterday's practice in. "I hope [it rains]. That's why I practiced today. I said 'We have to be able to practice if it's wet out.' My father used to say rain is a great equalizer, so we'll see. You might see me out there watering it."

Those conditions should slow down Florida's prolific passing game, making the ball slippery and footing difficult. Defensive backs could also be limited as they try to react to cuts by receivers. The Terps would benefit since they have the better running attack with Perry, the ACC Offensive Player of the Year.

Not surprisingly, the Gators downplayed the weather as a factor.

"It doesn't seem to slow our defense down," Florida defensive coordinator Jon Hoke said. "[Maryland] might try to run the ball a little more, but it doesn't change what we do defensively."

Seniors riding high

Maryland center Melvin Fowler was riding on the shoulders of underclassmen as the Terps completed practice yesterday at Barry University. The 297-pound Fowler was one of 19 seniors traveling atop teammates as part of new tradition implemented by their first-year coach.

"I just thought our seniors have contributed so much to this football team," Friedgen said. "I would like to establish a thing where they get carried off from their last practice, wherever it is. I think they thought it was a little foolish. But it is just something a little special to recognize their efforts and what they put into the program."

Yesterday was team's final session at Barry. The Terps will have a short walkthrough this afternoon at Pro Player Stadium.

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