FSU game Berlin’s final chance out of the doghouse

Everyone remembers where they were when it happened. With the hated rival University of Florida Gators holding a 33-10 lead with 6:10 left in the third quarter on Sept. 6, 2003, ‘Canes fans started pouring out of the Orange Bowl in disbelief, anger, and disappointment as Brock Berlin seemed to have single-handedly thrown the game away – literally – with two interceptions.

As I arrived home from work that evening (while the game was still in progress), I flipped on the TV only to see the insurmountable lead. Almost simultaneously, I received a call from my boys, who, somewhere within their profanity-laced tirades, said something to the effect of, “We are leaving, and Brock Berlin is not a good quarterback.” They had their reasons. In the first two and a half quarters, Brock locked into Miami receivers with such obvious emphasis that it appeared he forgot that he had transferred out of Gainesville a year earlier.

All of a sudden, something clicked. Berlin took control of the shotgun no-huddle offense, leading the team to 28 unanswered points in the game’s final minutes (capped off by a 12-yard scamper by Frank Gore). By the time the dust had settled, the ‘Canes had squeaked by with one of the greatest upsets in school history, 38-33, and Brock Berlin had saved his career.

Of course, the Florida game serves as the finest example of the two Brocks we’ve come to know: one, the former Gatorade national player of the year who compiled a 45-0 record as the starter for Evangel Christian in Louisiana; the other, the Gator transfer who failed to live up to his promise, throwing more interceptions (17) than touchdown passes (12) last season.

I should emphasize that much of the problem last year was not just Berlin. The UM offense was beset by the kinds of injuries (to starting tailback Gore and the offensive line), distractions (from certain “Soldiers”), and inexperience (that would be the receiving corps) that would put ESPN’s Playmakers to shame. Unfortunately, part of being a quarterback is knowing that you will be blamed for an offense’s shortcomings, which is exactly where fans left off last year.

In the team’s final game, the Orange Bowl, Berlin threw two picks to the Seminoles, and FSU kept the game close, eventually losing 16-14.

And so the fans will pick it up again at this season’s start, as the ‘Canes play FSU for the third time in less than a year. With five straight ‘Cane victories over our hated ACC rivals, you can best believe this game could make or break Berlin’s season, not to mention how he will be remembered in the long-run at Quarterback U.

All eyes are on Brock Berlin.

Ben Minkus can be contacted at b.minkus@umiami.edu.