CHARLOTTESVILLE, NOV. 5 -- Virginia wide receiver Herman Moore, who caught nine passes for 234 yards in the Cavaliers' 41-38 loss to Georgia Tech Saturday, said today it is "very possible" that he may not play this week against North Carolina.
Moore suffered sprains of both big toes -- a condition known as "turf toe" -- on two plays during the first quarter against Georgia Tech. Moore said he began to feel discomfort late Saturday night and that when he woke up Sunday morning, the toes were extremely swollen. Today, the 6-foot-5 redshirt junior walked gingerly, in noticeable pain as he arrived for practice.
"It seemed like my classes were 50 miles apart this morning. I needed a golf cart," Moore said. "I'm having a hard time walking. Running is out of the question."
Moore began rehabilitation on the toes this afternoon, and said he expects to start running by Tuesday or Wednesday. He was hampered by a similar condition for a month of the 1988 season, but did not miss any playing time. Moore, who has caught 39 passes for 878 yards and 11 touchdowns this year, tied an NCAA single-season record Saturday when he caught a touchdown pass for the eighth consecutive game. Backups Johnnie Wilson and Terrence Tomlin would play should Moore remain sidelined.
Moore's absence would further deplete the Virginia passing attack, which lost tight end Bruce McGonnigal for the season Oct. 18. He suffered a bruised spleen in a freak fall down a concrete ramp that was serving as a stairwell to the basement of a house he was housesitting.
McGonnigal was released from University of Virginia hospital last Wednesday, and observed Satuday's game from outside the locker room. Team doctors told him that watching from the sidelines would run the risk of a collision with a player running out of bounds and a possible rupture of his spleen.
"Before I even got into the stadium I felt depressed," said McGonnigal, a fifth-year senior who could return for a bowl game. "I started six games, but I still felt excluded because I'm not part of it right now."
Virginia players regrouped for practice this afternoon for the first time since their hopes of an undefeated season were quashed Saturday. Coach George Welsh, fearful of lingering queries about the Georgia Tech game, halted player interviews this week after today. Normally, Welsh allows reporters access to players through Wednesday, but indicated that he wants them focused on this week's game at North Carolina, and hinted that the barrage of media attention brought on his then top-ranked team last week was distracting.
"Some of my coaches thought it hurt a little bit," Welsh said. "Usually, if something like that hurts, it shows up in the beginning of the game. I didn't think that was true with us . . . but I heard one coach had to get a player out of an interview because he was late for a meeting and that's not right."
A record 350 journalists covered Saturday's game, but things returned to normal today, what with Virginia (7-1, 4-1 ACC) dropping to 11th in today's Associated Press poll. Athletic Director Jim Copeland spent the morning talking with representatives from 12 bowls, and said "payout, prestige and location" of the games will determine Virginia's postseason decision. The Fiesta Bowl would find a 10-1 Virginia particularly attractive, but the Cavaliers must win at North Carolina this week, here against Maryland Nov. 17, and at Virginia Tech a week later.
"We can't let Georgia Tech beat us twice," offensive tackle Paul Collins said. "They beat us Saturday, but we can't let that carry over this week. A 10-1 season and going to a good bowl game would ease our situation."
Four of last week's top five lost, elevating Notre Dame to No. 1. "The way teams are losing, I wouldn't count us out right now," Moore said. "Some games could be lost and we'd be right back up there."
Welsh said he couldn't sleep Sunday night, partially because memories of the dramatic finish to Saturday's game remained. "You have to play it over some, but you can't play it over forever," he said. What seemed most troubling to Welsh was the illegal procedure penalty that nullified Virginia's apparent game-winning touchdown. Shawn Moore had rifled a pass to tight end Aaron Mundy from the Georgia Tech 1, only to have the play voided because there were only six men on the line of scrimmage.
"Some times they call it, some times they don't," Welsh said. " . . . Those mistakes are made all the time. The NFL -- they never call it. It ought to be one or the other, either call them or don't call them."
Welsh, a longtime advocate of a college playoff system, played down Virginia's fall from the top, comparing the situation to that of the Penn State squads for which he served as an assistant. "I can die happy without being number one," he said. ". . . I was at Penn State in 1968 and '69 and we had 30 wins in a row, were 11-0 back-to-back, and won both bowl games and were never No. 1."