- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2002

MIAMI Florida coach Steve Spurrier said yesterday sophomore quarterback Rex Grossman is one of three Gators starters who won't start in tonight's Orange Bowl against Maryland because he missed curfew in the last week.

Grossman's benching means sophomore Brock Berlin, a highly regarded quarterback who has seriously looked into transferring to rival Miami, will start. There is no guarantee Grossman will even play, Spurrier said, as Berlin will "be given the opportunity to play the game.

"You never start a guy and say, 'If you screw up, you're out the next series.' It takes a bunch of screw-ups before we take somebody out."

Dave Jorgensen (center) and Bobby McCray (defensive end) also will not start, but Grossman's punishment, for a "clear breakdown in one of our rules," Spurrier said, is clearly the most intriguing. It's likely more than a coincidence that Spurrier is giving Berlin his first career start after he had threatened to transfer. Or Spurrier could be trying to keep his team on its toes. Regardless, the benching stands as another installment of off-field distractions that often swirl around Spurrier and the Gators.

"Brock and Rex, sometimes in practice, you can't tell the difference who's out there," Spurrier said. "We're going to play the guy we think has deserved to play and has earned the right to play. Brock Berlin has been to every offseason workout for two years, been on time for every meeting, made every practice every day. If there's any kid who deserves a chance to see what he can do, it's Brock Berlin. So things happen, he's going to get a chance."

On the season, Berlin completed 36 of 60 passes for 483 yards and nine touchdowns with one interception. Grossman was sensational, setting a school record by passing for 3,896 yards and 34 touchdowns, receiving a host of postseason awards and leading the nation in several offensive categories.

The Gators began the season ranked No. 1 by both major polls, so from the beginning they were saddled with expectations of reaching the Rose Bowl. Two losses (by three points to Auburn and two to Tennessee in the season finale) quashed any Pasadena possibilities, so there is a question if the Gators, two-touchdown favorites tonight, can match the incentive of the Terps, whose season exceeded all their goals.

In the days leading up to the game, Gators players have said they have enough to play for a top-five ranking, sending their seniors out with a victory and simply pride.

"A lot of people try to say a lot of times when we don't make the big game, we play let-down because we're disappointed," said senior tailback Robert Gillespie. "True enough, we are disappointed, but because we realize that every year we have the chance to be in the big game and it doesn't come through like that. We just have to go out there and realize that the fans and the media are going to remember the last game we played."

The last game Florida played was a 34-32 home loss to Tennessee, a game the team has tried doggedly to put behind it.

For the most part, Gators players have given Maryland its due respect, but there have been remarks to the contrary as well. Explosive wide receiver Jabar Gaffney said the Gators are, "going to show them something, we're going to show them who they're messing with." Fellow wideout Reche Caldwell albeit before the Gators had looked at much tape of the Terps said Saturday he didn't know who Maryland first-team All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson was.

"We're not as great as everybody thinks we are. I don't know how else to say that. We really have to come to play well," Spurrier said. "Maryland's very, very capable of beating us. If we play like we did against Tennessee, Maryland probably will beat us."

The Orange Bowl is the first major bowl appearance for Maryland in 25 years, so the Terps are quite unsympathetic to the Gators.

"They're here, they're playing us, they have to deal with it," safety Tony Jackson said.

In his team's defense, Florida defensive end Alex Brown said, "[All teams] would rather be in California. That's where we'd rather be. But it didn't work out."

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