With kickoff for the Sugar Bowl just three days away, things are coming a bit unraveled for No. 1-ranked Florida State and No. 2 Virginia Tech.
The Hokies' coaches first had to deal with an injury to starting wide receiver and punt returner Ricky Hall, who said today he intends to play despite suffering a broken foot during practice Friday. Then they had to address all-American defensive end Corey Moore's decision today to stop speaking with the media until after Tuesday night's game, after a report about his conduct at a media session Friday.
Meanwhile, several of Florida State's usual starters will not start Tuesday night because they violated the team's curfew, Coach Bobby Bowden announced. Bowden did not identify the players, but Seminoles offensive coordinator Mark Richt said none of them were offensive players.
Moore reportedly cursed at a reporter during Friday's media day at the Superdome, called some questions he was being asked "dumb" and stormed off. Moore, typically the Hokies' most outspoken and accessible player, returned and answered questions for more than 30 minutes after the reported incident.
He was scheduled to be one of five Virginia Tech defensive players to appear for news conferences today. But he told Virginia Tech officials he will not speak with the media again until after the game, and safety Nick Sorensen appeared instead.
Tonight, at halftime of its telecast of the Orange Bowl, ABC Sports showed videotape of Moore berating and threatening a camera operator at a practice here earlier this week. The first 30 minutes of Virginia Tech's practices have been open to the media, including video camera people. On the tape shown tonight, Moore could be heard saying: "Get that camera out of my face or I'm going to punch you. I mean it. Get that camera out of my face."
"Well, Corey wanted to apologize to the gentleman that asked the question for his language, but you know Corey's getting ready to play and he's a very intense guy," Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said this afternoon. " . . . He gets a little agitated at times, but I'm going to tell you this: I like Corey Moore and respect him a lot."
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster also spoke about Moore.
"I do know Corey wants to apologize," Foster said. "That's not how he is. Everybody's on edge now a little. I'll apologize for him. We've tried to express to the players that the same questions are going to get asked over and over. You get tired of answering over and over. We emphasize to the players that you treat people the way people treat you."
As for Hall, he fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot when he rolled it while running. Though he is listed a doubtful for the game, Hall said he intends to play.
"I need to play and I want to play," Hall said in a statement by Virginia Tech officials. "I just have to keep rehabilitating it and get ready to go."
Mike Goforth, Virginia Tech's trainer, said Hall's status will be a last-minute decision. Though there is no risk of further damaging the bone because of a moldable splint that has been designed to protect it, there also is little the training staff can do to temper the pain.
Hall caught 25 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns this season, and averaged 12.8 yards on 40 punt returns with one touchdown. He is receiving electric stimulation on his foot and wearing a compression boot to help reduce swelling.
If he cannot play, sophomore Emmett Johnson (10 catches, 147 yards, one touchdown) would start. Shawn Witten, one of only two freshman who played this season, would be the third wide receiver. He has six receptions for 55 yards.
Junior defensive back Ike Charlton will return punts.
"Some of them disobeyed [curfew] and we handled it our way," Bowden said in a statement. "Some guys are not gonna start who would have started. If they want to break the rules, give them some sort of punishment that will make them not to want to break it again."
In the statement, Bowden said the punishment "might be they might not start. Their curfew might be 7 tonight instead of 1 a.m. But they are gonna have to pay the price running." Running the stadium steps is the common punishment for Florida State players who commit minor infractions of team rules.
Florida State officials declined to identify the players, although offensive coordinator Mark Richt said none was on offense.
ESPN reported that all-American place kicker Sebastian Janikowski was seen after midnight in the French Quarter. According to Florida State running back Travis Minor, curfew for New Year's Eve was 11:30 p.m., and he said he thought if anyone missed the curfew, it wasn't by much.