Old Pals, Same Rivalry

University of Miami coach Larry Coker has already earned a portion of his paycheck this week. All week, Coker has made it very clear to junior quarterback Brock Berlin that as difficult as it may be he must keep a level head once the opening whistle blows in the Orange Bowl this Saturday night.

"The one thing we've stressed to Brock is that he will take the field with a lot of talented guys that could make his job a lot easier," says Coker. "He doesn't have to go out there and try to win the game on his own."

The urge of trying to carry the Hurricanes on his broad shoulders will be just one of the challenges that Berlin will be faced with in a couple of days as the third-ranked Hurricanes (1-0) host the No. 18 Gators (1-0) in the Orange Bowl for the first time since 1987 in a nationally televised contest (ABC, 8 p.m.).

Berlin, coming off an efficient performance in a season-opening victory over Louisiana Tech (14-of-28, 203 yards, two touchdowns, one interception), will look straight into the faces of many of his former teammates when he steps under center for Miami in a game that has been greatly hyped since Berlin transferred from Florida in the winter of 2001.

Berlin has been at the center of a pressure-packed couple of weeks. Against Louisiana Tech, Berlin was making his UM debut in Shreveport, just miles from where he grew up as a teenager. Now, the 22-year-old right-hander prepares to make his inaugural OB appearance against none other than the same school where he started his collegiate career three years ago.

But despite plenty of locker room decorations in the form of pre-game barbs, courtesy of some of his former mates, and being asked repeatedly what's going through his mind in anticipation of facing the Gators, Berlin appears to be taking it all in stride.

Just like Coker has tried to tell him, Berlin is doing his best to block out everything but the football game. As much as he would like to show the Gators that they lost out on a darn good quarterback when he decided to leave, Berlin realizes that the Hurricanes will need a lot more than his right arm to be successful against Florida.

"For me its just another game," said Berlin, who finished with 653 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions while playing in 12 games from 2000-2001 with the Gators. "I'm just going to go out there and do my best to get my guys to make plays. I know that I can't go out there and try to win this thing by myself. This is a team game and we have way too much talent. I just have to lean on my teammates and play well. "

Berlin has shown the poise of a seasoned veteran in avoiding any verbal confrontations through the media - quite impressive considering that the Gators have done their share of talking this week. Minutes after Florida's season-opening victory over San Jose State, Gators senior offensive guard Shannon Snell had a few words for Berlin.

"I still love Brock," Snell said. "But I hope our defense hits him in the mouth and makes him bleed."

Responded Berlin: "That's the Shannon I know right there. That's just him being who he is. I wouldn't expect less anything less from him."

But wait there's more.

Florida senior defensive end Bobby McCray said earlier this week that he doesn't fear Berlin's ability to drop back and pass because he believes the Gators defense will get to him first. McCray went as far as to say that the Gators are going to have a little fun in the Hurricanes backfield.

"Oh, there's going to be a good reunion in the backfield," said McCray. "We're going to have a party in the backfield."

"The plan is to shut down the run, and get them to pass. And once we get them to pass, our secondary is just so dominant."

McCray also thinks that the Hurricanes were better at running back last season with Willis McGahee than they are now with Frank Gore. McGahee ran for 204 yards in Miami's 41-16 victory over Florida last season.

"Gore's not better than McGahee," said McCray. "He's just played one game this year and is going on what he did the year before last."

Berlin is unfazed.

"We're concentrating on a good week of practice and playing well on Saturday," he said.

Although that doesn't mean that the 6-1, 213-pounder isn't anxiously awaiting the chance to face Florida with so much at stake.

"I can't wait. People are really building it up, but when that whistle blows, it's going to be time to go. I'm very excited about it.

Although he is faced with perhaps his biggest assignment as a collegiate quarterback, in a setting that Berlin is unfamiliar with, Berlin's teammates don't seem to be worried about how their signal-caller will handle himself against the Gators. Junior tight end Kellen Winslow, who caught four passes against Louisiana Tech, including a touchdown, maintains that the best of Berlin is yet to come and that the Gators should be concerned.

"He just has the confidence of all the guys on this team like (Ken) Dorsey," said Winslow. "There is no fear with Brock back there. He takes control of the huddle and doesn't get rattled. Brock is going to be fine."

A sold out Orange Bowl will greet Berlin on Saturday once he emerges from the traditional smoke, while the Gators will be on the other side of the field.

"I really can't tell you what I'm going to feel or what it's going to be like for me," says Berlin. "I won't know what my emotions will be like until I'm in the game and get things going."

Yet the Gators would like him to feel the pain of defeat, even if it's just for a few hours.

"We have to get to Brock if we want to win this game," says McCray.

Miami's defense will also be preoccupied with the task of slowing down not one, but two quarterbacks (freshman Chris Leak and sophomore Ingle Martin). Florida coach Ron Zook played both quarterbacks in the team's opener and says the system will continue against Miami.

Miami defensive end Thomas Carroll doesn't appear to be too concerned.

"If we get pressure on them we're going to be in good shape," said Carroll.

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