Staying in Berlin's Corner

It hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for Brock Berlin in his initial season at the University of Miami. Accompanied by lofty expectations when he transferred from the University of Florida in the winter of 2002 Berlin was the subject of plenty of criticism for most of the season as he produced mixed results - more bad than good.

There was the frenzied rally against Florida in which Berlin directed the largest Orange Bowl-comeback in team history by completing 18 of his last 20 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns to erase a 23-point UM deficit. Only moments like that one would be far and in-between for Berlin. There were the three interceptions -albeit in a driving rainstorm- in Tallahassee as the Hurricanes survived behind a solid defensive effort.

Four interceptions without a touchdown pass combined against Virginia Tech and Tennessee would prove crucial as the Hurricanes suffered consecutive losses for the first time since 1999. The following week he was benched as back-up Derrick Crudup got the call against Syracuse. But as Berlin prepares for tonight's FedEx Orange Bowl against Florida State in his quest to put an inconsistent season behind him there is something that hasn't changed- the players and coaches' confidence in him.

"I think as an offense they've looked a lot more confident, and Brock has been a big part of that," said UM junior defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. "As long as he carries it over to the game he'll be alright."

Said UM sophomore offensive lineman Eric Winston: "I haven't seen a down swing with Brock. I think we've always believed in him and Brock knows that. He's taken his lumps with the fans and the media, but we're behind him all the way."

Berlin, who finished the regular season with a 61 percent completion percentage (197-323) for 2,262 yards, 12 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, admitted recently that this season hasn't turned out like he expected. But the former Gator hopes to pick-up on a good finish to the regular season. The 6-1, 211-pounder was 12-of-17 for 195 yards and one touchdown with one interception in a 28-14 victory over Pittsburgh that gave the Hurricanes their fourth straight Big East title.

"Things haven't gone as everybody kind of expects around here, but we can have a good finish with a win against Florida State," said Berlin. "I know it would mean a lot for me personally."

Despite his tendency to force passes and inability to elude defensive pass rushes, Berlin did enjoy some success this season. Berlin was effective on third down completing 61 of 89 passes for 632 yards and two touchdowns. He converted 48 of 86 of those situations into first downs. Berlin had a career-high 352 passing yards, while leading a last-minute touchdown drive to defeat West Virginia 22-20.

"I've learned a whole lot this year in this system," says Berlin. "There are a lot of things that happened that I can really learn from."

As if having to get ready for a Seminoles defense that allowed 16.8 points and 217.6 passing yards per game during the regular season isn't enough to worry about, Berlin is also aware of the possibility of having to win the starting quaterback position again next spring over Crudup and highly-regarded Kyle Wright. But Berlin doesn't sound fazed.

"I'm just concerned with one thing right now, and that's Florida State," said Berlin.

GETTING SERIOUS

Coker said after practice Tuesday that the Hurricanes have picked up their intensity as the bowl game draws closer. "Its all been fun, but its getting closer now," said Coker. "Somebody asked, if the excitement is picking up and I think it is."

Coker added that the team engaged in a lot of 'controlled contact' during the practice session.

"We have no misses, no injuries," he said.

Senior reserve Jarrell Weaver, who suffered a broken left foot late in the season, is expected to play on special teams on Thursday, while center Joel Rodriguez (broken leg) could be used in an emergency situation. Wilfork said he was been battling the flu the last several days but he intends to be ready for the game.

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