MIAMI - One minute, a pass caromed off the raised right hand of Jafar Williams and into the arms of Florida middle linebacker Andra Davis, killing a Maryland drive that had just begun after the Terps had forced a turnover.
The next minute, Williams was sprinting down the middle of the field untouched, scoring a touchdown by completing the longest reception of his career and longest scoring pass for Maryland this season.
It all happened in the last 5:15 of the first quarter in last night's Orange Bowl, sending Williams on the wildest emotional swing of his young career.
The touchdown play, a 64-yarder that temporarily stunted Florida's momentum, came immediately after the Gators had taken a 14-0 lead with 12 seconds left in the quarter on a 46-yard scoring pass from quarterback Brock Berlin to wide-out Taylor Jacobs.
Maryland quarterback Shaun Hill set up the score with a fake handoff to fullback James Lynch and a slick option fake that froze the Florida defense and left its secondary flat-footed. That allowed Williams to find a huge void in the middle, where Hill found him, to pull the Terps to 14-7 heading into the second quarter.
Barely five minutes earlier, Williams had failed to stretch out for a less-than-perfect Hill pass over the middle. Davis intercepted the carom, which stunned the Terps temporarily. One play earlier, Terps safety Randall Jones had picked off Berlin on a deep pass thrown into double coverage.
Novak's streak gets boot
On the night when the Terps' year began to take off, so did Maryland place-kicker Nick Novak's season. Back on Oct. 11, Novak's 46-yard field goal, then a career-long, forced an overtime period at Georgia Tech. Maryland went on to win, 20-17, propelling it toward a 10-1 finish and its first ACC championship since 1985.
Last night, Novak missed a 46-yard attempt with 6:03 left in the first half, marking the first time since that huge moment at Georgia Tech - a span of 13 consecutive field goals - that he had failed to convert an attempt inside 50 yards.
Novak's miss, which sailed wide left, marked the last time Maryland would mount a serious threat. Instead of pulling the Terps to within 14-13, it was the beginning of a 10-point swing that would leave Maryland in a 21-10 hole and counting.
Immediately after the miss, quarterback Rex Grossman replaced Berlin and led Florida on a 10-play, 72-yard drive. He finished it with a 15-yard scoring pass to Jacobs with 2:18 left in the half.
Despite thousands of empty seats, officials announced attendance at 73,640, the largest crowd at the Orange Bowl since it has been played in Pro Player Stadium and its largest since 1995, when 81,753 watched the Nebraska-Miami game.
The combined 1,019 yards by Florida and Maryland broke the Orange Bowl record of 903 set in 1996, when Florida State beat Nebraska, and the combined 713 yards passing broke the mark set by Alabama and Nebraska in 1966. The Gators set records with 30 first downs, and an average gain of 8.9 yards per play.
Lost in the Gators' outrageous passing numbers were an Orange Bowl record for most yards per rush, as Robert Gillespie carried four times for 63 yards, a 15.8 yard average that bested a record set by Oklahoma's Prentice Gautt in 1959.
Future Berlin plans?
Now that Grossman - also a sophomore - has won his job back, the question becomes what Berlin plans to do. He has considered transferring, possibly to Miami, where he could succeed Ken Dorsey in 2003.
"Who knows, man? Who knows?" Berlin said minutes after the game. "You never know what could happen. I haven't made up my mind, to tell you the truth."
Stars in stands, too
The notables were all over the house at Pro Player Stadium last night, from former Maryland greats on the gridiron to the state's heaviest-hitting politicians.
Former Maryland All-America quarterback Boomer Esiason was there, as was former Terp and Hall of Fame hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah and former boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard from Palmer Park, Md.
Others in attendance included Maryland alums Ben and Tony Scotti (the producers of TV's Baywatch series), Gov. Parris N. Glendening, CNN political analyst Bob Novak, Maryland U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, state U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer and Steve Bisciotti, part owner of the Ravens.
Terps bowl history
Date Bowl Opponent Result
1/1/48 Gator Georgia T, 20-20
1/2/50 Gator Missouri W, 20-7
1/1/52 Sugar Tennessee W, 28-13
1/1/54 Orange Oklahoma L, 7-0
1/2/56 Orange Oklahoma L, 20-6
12/28/73 Peach Georgia L, 17-16
12/16/74 Liberty Tennessee L, 7-3
12/29/75 Gator Florida W, 13-0
1/1/77 Cotton Houston L, 30-21
12/22/77 Hall of Fame Minnesota W, 17-7
12/23/78 Sun Texas L, 42-0
12/20/80 Tangerine Florida L, 35-20
12/25/82 Aloha Washington L, 21-20
12/17/83 Citrus Tennessee L, 30-23
12/22/84 Sun Tennessee W, 28-27
12/21/85 Cherry Syracuse W, 35-18
12/15/90 Independence Louisiana Tech T, 34-34
1/2/02 Orange Florida L, 56-23