Nearly 10 years to the day have passed since the man who began his college career as a Florida Gator and ended it as a Miami Hurricane, sprinted in glory on the Orange Bowl turf doing the Gator chomp.
Quarterback Brock Berlin, who orchestrated the spectacular 38-33 comeback victory against UF in 2003, recalls that moment as surely as he recalls former Gators guard Shannon Snell — a good friend, mind you — telling reporters before the game that he hoped UF’s defense would make Berlin’s “mouth bleed.”
“I’ve never felt a stadium become so electric since that game,” said Berlin, a former St. Louis Ram and short-lived Miami Dolphin whose Canes were down 33-10 with 3:35 left in the third quarter before he rallied them to the win.
“The place was shaking. The people were going crazy. It was an amazing feeling.”
Though the Orange Bowl is no more, Berlin, 32, will return to the Miami sideline at noon Saturday to watch his Hurricanes (1-0) take on the No. 10 Gators (1-0) in front of a capacity crowd at Sun Life Stadium. He said he was asked last month to serve as UM’s honorary captain for the game, which will mark the first time UF returns to Miami since the historic comeback.
Coral Gables police officer Maurice Sikes, who played as a safety in the 2003 game and had his finest moment against UF at The Swamp with two interceptions in 2002, will be there as well — as will fullback Kyle Cobia and likely other members of that squad.
Former receivers Sinorice Moss and Kevin Beard will watch on TV.
Beard, now a substitute teacher in Broward County and receivers/special teams coach for University School, made the comeback possible with his seven-catch, one-touchdown, 164-yard career-best performance.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than that,” said Beard, 32, the father of two young boys and a 2-year-old girl. “All I could think about was Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss, Andre Johnson, Andre King, Daryl Jones, Ethenic Sands — all the receivers I was blessed to play with at UM, before they left me to carry the torch as a fifth-year senior. I couldn’t let them down.
“The game is never over as long as there’s time on the clock. All that’s left is an opportunity to do the unthinkable — and we did that.”
With third-ranked UM trailing 21st-ranked UF 33-10 and most of the Orange Bowl capacity crowd chanting “Let’s Go Canes!” the Hurricanes would not die. UM scored three times within seven-and-a-half minutes from late in the third quarter to early in the fourth. With 3:35 left in the third, Berlin hit Beard for their first touchdown connection of the season — a 26-yard seam route — followed by a two-point conversion pass to Ryan Moore that made it 33-18.
Berlin then hit Beard for a 62-yard gain with 35 seconds left in the quarter to put UM on the 1-yard line. Frank Gore scored two seconds later to cut the UM deficit to 33-25.
The Canes came one point short of the lead when Moore caught a 6-yard touchdown pass with 11:08 remaining in the game. The Orange Bowl rocked as the home team trailed 33-32.
Moss, then a sophomore trying to follow in the footsteps of his record-setting older brother Santana, said he, like Beard, knew even before that moment that the Canes would prevail.