- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

MIAMI Two hours before the game, the parents of Maryland's players queued outside the designated Pro Player Stadium gate in anticipation of getting inside to see their sons play the biggest game of their lives.

Some dressed in jerseys with their sons' numbers, some in other Maryland gear and some just in a shade of red. They all were bubbling with excitement.

Yesterday was a long day for senior safety Rod Littles' mother, Sylvia. She was up and out of the house at 4a.m. to make the drive from Gainesville, Fla., to Miami, with stops in Ocala and Orlando to pick up relatives. About 15 members of the Littles family were on hand for the game.

Gainesville, of course, is the home of the University of Florida, and Rod Littles always wanted to be a Gator, his mother said. Once the Orange Bowl announced Maryland would face Florida, there was no hesitation the family would be pulling for the Terrapins. Coach Ralph Friedgen sent Littles, who has been a special teams game captain this season, out for the coin toss with Shaun Hill and E.J. Henderson.

"Ooh, it's been something. It's been quite a day," Sylvia Littles said. "I couldn't believe this is what it has come to."

Said Frankie Nobles, Littles' grandmother: "I love the Gators. I don't want to see them lose. But I will root for Maryland, of course."

Last night's game ended a long wait for the Terps, who last played Nov. 17 a span of 46 days. It might have seemed a longer wait for some parents.

"I've spent a lot of time in the bathroom," admitted Gregory Gary, father of senior wide receiver Guilian. "I'm happy it's here. The first time I saw him running out on the field at Maryland, that was major. I can't think of what this will be."

Gregory Gary knows something about playing in a big setting; he was the starting small forward on the 1969-70 St. Bonaventure basketball team that played in the Final Four at Cole Field House.

Welcome back, Tony O

Maryland cornerback Tony Okanlawon played for the first time in 73 days when he started on the first defensive series. The senior hadn't played since Oct.20 because of a non-football related medical issue. Despite not playing in the final four regular-season games, the Forestville resident was named All-ACC after making five interceptions in seven games.

Wouldn't miss this

If Maryland fans are holding their heads high these days, imagine how the former players feel. Several former Terps made the trip to Miami for the Orange Bowl to soak in the atmosphere.

"I'm happy for the guys," said Mukala Sikyala, a tailback who backed up LaMont Jordan in 1999 and 2000. "They were able to accomplish what we dreamed of."

Sikyala was one of several recent former Maryland players Sikyala said defensive back Paul Jackson ('98) and linebackers Erwyn Lyght ('99) and Kendall Ogle ('98) were among those in town. Sikyala met up with former backfield mate Matt Kalapinski ('00), who had flown in from Massachusetts.

"Everyone's feeling 'Fridge Fever.' Everyone's pretty excited," said Sikyala, who was on the San Diego Chargers' practice squad earlier this season and will try to catch on with an NFL team this summer. "We're living vicariously through them. We were able to build the foundation for the young guys."

Former quarterback John Kaleo, who earned just one letter (1992) but still holds six school passing records, drove over yesterday from Tampa, where he lives and plays for the city's Arena Football League team, to watch his alma mater. He says he has taken plenty of razzing from teammates and opponents from more traditional football powerhouses and has enjoyed returning the remarks the last few weeks.

"It's exciting to be part of a winning tradition again," Kaleo said. "The team's really been struggling the last few years, but they look like they're coming back. Now I don't have to just take it from people anymore."

Logistics nightmare

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen's decision to move the team to a new hotel Tuesday night left plenty of Maryland fans steaming yesterday.

After Florida quarterback Rex Grossman and four teammates missed curfew last week and were benched for the start of last night's game, Friedgen decided to move the Terps from the Fountainebleau Hilton in Miami to the Don Shula Hotel and Golf Resort in Hialeah, closer to Pro Player Stadium and farther from the beaches and potential "distractions," as he described it.

But the team took longer than usual to leave for the game last night, and the hotel was unable to make their rooms available until close to 6:00 last night, semi-stranding many Terps fans who wanted to use them before heading for the game.

"It's ridiculous," fumed one Terps fan, who didn't want to give her name. "We got here three hours ago [around 2 p.m.], and we haven't been able to check in at all."

Compounding the problem was a steady rain that fell most of the afternoon, keeping fans from walking around outside and pinning them down to the lobby or bar.


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