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Florida visitor has a big day in Orlando

Penn State QB Rashard Casey leads host team to 10-0 victory in Gridiron Classic all-star game.

By KEITH NIEBUHR

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 14, 2001


ORLANDO -- Rashard Casey is not from Florida.

He grew up in Hoboken, N.J., and played at Penn State. His only significant connection to the Sunshine State is that he is friends with University of Florida wide receiver Carlos Perez.

But because Team Florida needed a second quarterback, Casey ended up on its roster for the all-star Gridiron Classic.

Thank goodness.

In a game that lacked offensive firepower, Casey gave Team Florida the boost it needed. He completed 7 of 8 passes for 47 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 41 yards on seven carries to earn game MVP honors and lead Team Florida to 10-0 win against Team USA in front of a crowd of 20,958 at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

"Winning sure beats losing," Team Florida coach Lindy Infante said. "We put a lot of effort in during the week and it feels good to see all the hard work pay off."

The two teams combined for 32 first downs and 464 yards, but most of the offense came in the second half. In the first half, there were 10 first downs and 186 total yards as Keith Cottrell (Florida State) and Dan Hadenfeldt (Nebraska) stole the show by combining for 13 punts.

Team Florida started the second half with a 13-play, 87-yard drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Casey to Florida State tight end Ryan Sprague. On the drive Dee Brown of Syracuse carried four times for 23 yards and Casey rushed for 31 yards and passed for 30.

"The drive was a combined effort," Casey said. "Throughout the whole drive I just tried to stay patient and make plays."

Team Florida added a 23-yard field goal by Maryland's Brian Kopka with 2:07 left in the game. The score came six plays after a fumble by quarterback Ortege Jenkins of Arizona, one of three Team USA turnovers.

"To get a shutout was outstanding," Infante said.

Team USA drove deep into Team Florida territory three times but was hurt by two interceptions and a missed 30-yard field goal by Wisconsin's Vitaly Pisetsky, a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, which goes to the nation's top placekicker.

Both interceptions were thrown by Cincinnati quarterback Deontey Kenner.

Team Florida's Marlon McCree of Kentucky stopped one drive with an interception at the 13:21 mark of the second quarter at 2-yard line. With 11:55 left in the game, a Kenner pass was picked off in the end zone by West Virginia's Chris Edmonds, who made a spectacular one-handed grab.

"I can't say enough about our defense," Infante said. "(Edmonds' interception) was a great turnover to stop a drive."

Team Florida leads the series 2-1.

Team USA won last year's game 21-14 and Team Florida won 17-9 in 1998.

"We expected to win this game," Sprague said. "Everybody in this locker room expected to win. It just goes along with playing football in this state. Your expectations in Florida are to succeed."

Even if, like Casey, you aren't from Florida.

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