Maryland had gotten its footing during a first half in which a mini-drama played out within the Gators' offense. Florida's star quarterback, Rex Grossman, had been benched in the first quarter for missing curfew last Friday. His replacement, Brock Berlin, played inconsistently, leading his team to two early scores but also throwing a pair of interceptions. A 64-yard touchdown pass by Maryland's Shaun Hill to Jafar Williams, and a 20-yard field goal by Brook Barnard, made the score a respectable 14-10 with fewer than three minutes remaining in the first half.
The blowout was particularly frustrating for Maryland under the circumstances. Florida's players arrived in Miami downbeat, disappointed that their Dec. 1 loss to Tennessee prevented the team from earning a bid to the national title game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., which takes place Thursday. For Florida, the nation's No. 1-ranked team at the start of the season, a trip to the Orange Bowl wasn't a reward, it was reproof. For 11 straight years, the Gators have earned bowl bids. In their minds, playing Maryland at the Orange Bowl amounted to an insult.
Maryland's early jitters seemed to dissipate, at least momentarily. On the next drive, Berlin threw a poor pass down the right sideline that Maryland's Tony Okanlawon tipped and Dennard Wilson grabbed in full stride at about the 40-yard line. Wilson sped to the Gators 3, stopped short of the end zone. Unfortunately for Maryland, Florida's defense yielded only a yard, and the stirring interception led only to a field goal. The Terrapins trailed, 14-10.
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