Originally created 12/06/01

Florida's Grossman is AP's Player of the Year



Rex Grossman might remember his record-setting year at Florida more for the sting of a season-shattering loss.

Despite a gallant effort by Grossman, Florida lost to Tennessee 34-32 last week and missed a chance to play for the Southeastern Conference title and a spot in the BCS' national championship game in the Rose Bowl.

The loss did little to hurt the stature of the nation's top-rated passer, who was chosen Wednesday as The Associated Press College Player of the Year.

"Our season fell short of what we hoped," Grossman said. "We're a little down in Gainesville. I thought I had a pretty good year, but two losses is kind of all we can think about right now."

Grossman received 18 votes in balloting by the 72 members of the AP college football poll board, which includes member newspapers, TV and radio stations. He edged Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey by three votes, with Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch third with 12 votes.

Oklahoma safety Roy Williams was fourth with seven votes, and Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El and Miami left tackle Bryant McKinnie tied for fifth with five votes each.

"There are some tremendous players around the country and I am privileged to be in their company and receive this award," Grossman said.

Gators coach Steve Spurrier said the sophomore "richly deserved" the honor.

"He is probably the best pure passer of the quarterbacks I have coached and is one of the most courageous players," he said. "He loves to compete and play the game."

Grossman is among four finalists for the Heisman Trophy, to be awarded Saturday night. He's also up for Walter Camp player of the year, the Maxwell Award and the Davey O'Brien national quarterback of the year.

With Grossman at the controls, Spurrier finally closed his revolving door of quarterbacks, which began after 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel departed.

Grossman, a Parade All-American from Bloomington, Ind., didn't even know he'd be running the Fun 'N Gun until finally beating out Brock Berlin for the job.

Once he got going, the numbers started piling up. The nation's leader in total offense threw for 3,896 yards and 34 touchdowns.

Grossman's biggest game was a 464-yard, five-TD effort in just over three quarters of a 44-15 win at LSU on Oct. 6. He directed the nation's second-best offense, which averaged 43.8 points and 527.5 yards a game.

At the end of the Gators' 9-2 season, Grossman's stats were staggering.

He broke Wuerffel's single-season passing yardage record of 3,625 yards, threw for 300 or more yards in 10 of 11 games, topped 400 yards twice and set career highs for completions and attempts in the loss to Tennessee.

Against the Vols, he was 33-of-51 for 362 yards with two TDs passing and one rushing despite a weak running game that allowed the Vols to come up with four sacks and an interception.

While Grossman's numbers were far superior to Dorsey's, they could have been even bigger.

Many of the Gators' wins were decided by halftime, and Grossman hardly played - if at all - in the fourth quarter of six games. Before the game against the Vols, he had completed 20 of 30 passes for 369 yards and six TDs in fourth quarters. Berlin had nine TD passes, mostly in a cleanup role.

"That's nine we could have added onto Rex," Spurrier said. "Some people around the country look at Rex's statistics and think, 'They let him fire away when they're well ahead.' But that's not true. That's OK, we can't make them believe everything."

With losses to Auburn and Tennessee, the Gators might still end up playing in the Orange Bowl. But Grossman has two more seasons to reach his primary goal.

"I didn't get the job done fully; we lost two games," Grossman said. "I look forward to next year and the year after that. Hopefully, we'll get a national championship before I'm done."

Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel was last year's AP player of the year.