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Gators put bite on outmanned Terps

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MIAMI — Brock Berlin was decent, Rex Grossman was much better and speedy receiver Taylor Jacobs led a long list of talented players who could make any Florida quarterback look great.

Forced to watch from the sideline for the first 24 minutes of the Orange Bowl, Grossman again showed he belongs on the field Wednesday night. He led Florida to touchdowns on his first six drives, and the No. 5 Gators smashed No. 6 Maryland 56-23 on a record-setting night.

Grossman threw for 248 yards and four touchdowns. Jacobs caught 10 passes for 170 yards, both Orange Bowl records, and Steve Spurrier's quarterback shuffle turned into a stunning offensive highlight show.

"It looked like our wideouts were running past them pretty good," Spurrier said. "Defensively, we were the faster team."

Indeed.

Overall, the Gators unanimously agreed, Maryland (10-2) just didn't match up too well in its first bowl game in 11 years.

"I'm not proud of the way we played," said first-year Terps coach Ralph Friedgen, who led the surprising Terps to the Atlantic Coast Conference title. "I'm embarrassed. It's my fault. I'm embarrassed for the state of Maryland."

Jabar Gaffney caught two touchdowns passes for Florida (10-2), and tailback Earnest Graham ran for 149 yards and two scores. Florida gained 659 yards to break a 49-year-old Orange Bowl record, and the Gators showed they might, indeed, have the most talent in the nation.

But they won't be playing for the national title in the Rose Bowl due to a 34-32 loss to Tennessee on Dec. 1.

Jacobs caught two touchdown passes — one from Berlin, one from Grossman. Surprisingly, some people thought Spurrier's decision to bench Grossman for missing curfew would be a distraction.

The Heisman Trophy runner-up entered to big cheers with 6:03 left in the second quarter and showed exactly how he earned the starting position and kept it through all 11 regular-season games.

There were too many highlights to count, but the second touchdown — both the drive and the scoring pass — were testament to how he became Florida's No. 1 quarterback.

He directed a six-play, 64-yard touchdown drive that started with 1:25 left in the first half. The scoring play was a perfect lob in coverage to Gaffney, a pass that only a quarterback with perfect knowledge of his receiver's capabilities would dare throw. It gave Florida a 28-10 lead.

Berlin, strongly considering transferring to Miami next season, went 11-for-19 for 196 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions, both the result of badly misjudged throws into double coverage.

Gaffney finished with seven catches for 118 yards, but Jacobs was the best receiver on this night, and he was selected the game's Most Valuable Player.