Farewell blog
Fans, this will mark my final trip into blogosphere, as I'm now home along with the other members of the Tech official travel party. Two planes departed Fort Lauderdale on Friday morning, with the final plane landing in Roanoke around 2. The last of us got to Blacksburg around 3.

It was a somber trip home following the events of the Orange Bowl. I don't think any of the players or coaches expected the game to go the way it did, and while many writers and other media pundits break down the game in the coming days, it really is quite simple.

You can't turn the ball over - in any sport. Even in Olympic sports like soccer, hockey, and lacrosse, you must value each possession. When you give up possessions, you're going to pay. The Hokies paid big-time.

The loss marked Tech's fourth in the past five bowl games, and after the game, head coach Frank Beamer admitted he and his staff needed to analyze everything related to the bowl.

"We're going to talk about it," he said.

As expected, players were down in the locker room after the game. The seniors, in particular, were disappointed, but I give them credit for talking with the media in difficult circumstances and providing forthright answers - even when they had none.

"I wish I had an answer for you," Chris Ellis said of Tech's bowl struggles. "We couldn't find the secret even with all the wins we had."

Tech's senior class still leaves as the winningest, and they leave the program in good shape. Next year, the Hokies return eight starters on offense and, if Brandon Flowers and Macho Harris return, five on defense. The group that redshirted appears to be outstanding - and for those of you who get Hokiesports the Newspaper, I'll have a story on that group in the bowl issue. In all sincerity, given the state of the ACC and the Coastal Division, I could see the Hokies being picked to win it again next year.

In wrapping this up, I'd be interested in hearing some constructive criticism or comments on the Orange Bowl blog. Please look my e-mail up on the Tech web site and send us some ideas. This will help us better serve you fans in the future.

Thanks for a few people who helped with this. Bryan Johnston, the athletics communications czar, proofed the blog and corrected mistakes. David Knachel took a ton of photos. Damian Salas, webmaster and assistant cheerleading coach, set this all up.

And a couple of staff members here kept me sane during the game for which I'm grateful (hey, the media view was horrible and the overall set-up wasn't not the greatest). One mocked me through IM by telling of his trips to the refrigerator for beverage runs, while the other - our friend (nicknamed Punkin) from rural south-central NY - sacrificed greatly by climbing off the couch, putting on a pair of flops, and going out to scrape the snow off the dish just to be able to watch the game on the family's black-and-white TV, all the while mocking me for whining about the chilly weather in south Florida. Such friends and co-workers I have.

This has gotten out of hand. I'll try to do better next time.

Until then, as I always like to say, carry on.

A Few Updated Game-Day Notes
Here's an early look at the updated game notes the Athletics Communications Office will hand out to the media tonight at the game:

* Kenny Lewis, Jr., will get the start at tailback tonight in place of Branden Ore. Ore, who's started all 13 games this year, is suspended for the first quarter of tonight's game for a violation of team policy. It will be Lewis' second collegiate start (2006, Virginia). Lewis will be backed up by Jahre Cheeseman in the first quarter.

* Tech is the home team tonight, but chose to wear white jerseys. Tech is 5-0 in the white jerseys despite losing on the road at LSU, where the Hokies wore maroon jerseys. Tech is also wearing the all-white combination for the fourth time tonight. Tech won at Clemson, at Virginia and in the ACC Championship Game against Boston College in this combo.

* Sixteen Hokie players will be playing as graduates tonight: Jud Dunlevy, Matt Welsh, Carlton Weatherford, Carlton Powell and Bart McMillin graduated prior to the season and Xavier Adibi, Barry Booker, Chris Ellis, Matt Finnegan, Sean Glennon, Vince Hall, Josh Hyman, Nick Marshman, Kory Robertson, Eddie Royal and Brett Warren all graduated in December.

* Barring any setbacks in warmups, linebacker Vince Hall will start tonight's game. Hall, a senior from Chesapeake, Va., suffered a bruised left knee while playing in the ocean at Tech's Orange Bowl-sponsored Beach Party Sunday. He has started 47 games in his career is second on the team with 92 tackles this season. If he can't go the whole way, junior Brett Warren will get the start and he would be backed up by Jonas Houseright. Warren started four games this year when Hall was out with a broken left wrist. In those four starts, Warren recorded 30 tackles, including four TFL and two sacks, and three quarterback hurries, an interception and a pass break up. He was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week after Tech's win at Duke after recording 11 tackles (3.0 for loss) and an interception.

* Jud Dunlevy (21 FG) needs two field goals to break Tech's single-season field goal mark of 22 set by Chris Kinzer in 1986 and matched by Shayne Graham in 1998. He is the third-most accurate field goal kicker in the country this year (21-24, 87.5 percent) for kickers with a minimum of 20 attempts:

Thomas Weber (Arizona State)....24-25....96.0%

Austin Starr (Indiana)..........19-21....90.5%

Jud Dunlevy (Virginia Tech).....21-24....87.5%

* If one of them has a big night, either Josh Morgan or Eddie Royal could end up as Tech's all-time leader in receptions. The record of 126 is held by Ernest Wilford and Antonio Freeman sits second with 121. Morgan needs eight catches (119) and Royal needs nine (118) to set the new mark.

* Since Tech went to the two-quarterback rotation of Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor for the last four games, Tech's offensive numbers have seen a significant increase:

...................Games 1-9...Games 10-13....Difference

Points Per Game....26.0........36.8...........+12.8 PPG

Rushing YPG........126.3.......149.8..........+23.5 YPG

Passing YPG........189.0.......221.0..........+32.0 YPG

Total YPG..........315.3.......370.8..........+57.5 YPG

Late-night blog from south Florida
So my plans were to enter blogdom a little earlier than this, but I got sidetracked. Nevertheless, another foray is being made.

First things first, the team went through the walk through at Nova Southeastern and then headed to Dolphin Stadium for a team photo as planned. Before dinner this evening, a team meeting was held and the team voted on captains for the 2007 season. Those will be the captains for the Orange Bowl and the team will be notified tomorrow.

There's nothing new to report on Vince Hall. He's still a game-time decision, although trainer Mike Goforth said Hall said he felt much better today and participated in the walk through. I'd expect to see him try to give it a go if he doesn't have any setbacks.

Today's weather marked a stark change to the previous five days. Temperatures dipped into the 50s - in fact, it only got up to 59 today, the lowest in south Florida in nearly two years - and it is supposed to get below freezing tonight. It's supposed to be pretty much same on game day as well. Keep an eye on the wind - it was howling today.

The best part of the day was seeing a bunch of former Tech players hanging out in the lobby of the Westin Diplomat. Hey, it's always a great day whenever you get to chat with Bryan Randall, the first quarterback to guide the Hokies to the ACC title and the 2004 ACC player of the year. Randall has been living in Washington, D.C., and continues to work out in hopes of landing with an NFL team.

Also, DeAngelo Hall and Brenden Hill were hanging out with Randall. All three were dressed up, and if I'm not mistaken, had taken part in former Virginia Governor Mark Warner's shindig down here today. Warner, as most know, is running for Senate next year. Forgive me for not knowing the specifics of Warner's party down here.

Jeff Bolton is down here, too, joking that he was DeAngelo's bodyguard (Bolton lives in the Atlanta area, along with DeAngelo). Also, let me say that, considering all the negative talk surrounding DeAngelo this fall, he couldn't have been nicer and more gracious tonight.

Bruce Smith also is in town, though I didn't see him. Several others were as well, including Antonio Freeman, Keion Carpenter, Will Montgomery, Brandon Manning, David Clowney, Shayne Graham, Noland Burchette and Nathaniel Adibi.

That's it from blog land. Carry on.

Hall a game-time decision
The blog man got plenty of rest yesterday evening and afternoon after watching only one quarter of the USC-Illinois game and one half of the Hawaii-Georgia game. Thanks, BCS, for providing the perfect tonic for my fatigue. I hadn't been that bored since listening to my philosophy professor during a class 13 years ago.

Anyway, just got back from head coach Frank Beamer's press conference this morning - the last interview session of this bowl until after the game - and he said whether Vince Hall would play would be a game-time decision. As first reported here yesterday, Hall injured his knee during the team's beach outing a few days ago.

"It's up to the doctors and Vince, and I'm not sure what it'll happen," Beamer said, reiterating that Brett Warren would get the nod if Hall can't go.

Beamer received a ton of questions this morning, ranging from his thoughts on his senior class to Kansas to how far Tech has come as a program. Again, I'm not into transcribing a bunch of quotes, but if you want a complete transcript of press conference, then go to the Orange Bowl's web site. They've posted the past two and I'm sure they'll post this one at some point today.

Tech plans on holding its walkthrough at Nova Southeastern University around 3 p.m. before heading to Dolphins Stadium for a team photo. Stadium officials will not let either team walkthrough on the freshly painted field.

Other than that, there's not much more to report. If I hear of anything new on Hall, I'll let you know.

Carry on.

New Year's Day blog
The blog man is back and ready for yet another foray into blogdom, or rather simply just to hit you with the latest on this morning's events.

Apparently, Vince Hall's knee injury is more serious than I was led to believe yesterday and he is questionable for Thursday's bowl game with Kansas. Hall sprained his left knee during the beach outing a couple of days ago and has done very little in practices since then. In fact, he did little to nothing in practice this morning, leaving Brett Warren to get most of the reps. Warren, a redshirt junior, started four games in Hall's absence earlier this season when Hall went down with a broken wrist.

The Hokies went through their normal 'Thursday' routine in preparation for the Jayhawks under hot and humid conditions yet again. However, after three days of dealing with it, the players seem to have adapted to the situation. Considering the weather is slated to cool down considerably tomorrow, conditioning will not be a factor for either team.

After practice, the seniors went on a bus directly to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital for an Orange Bowl-sponsored visit. This is one of the highlights for the seniors, many of whom love children and enjoy simply making their day. While there, they handed out souvenir-type items to those struggling with various ailments.

The players had the rest of the afternoon and evening free. Curfew has been moved up to 11 p.m. and will continue to be as the time ticks off toward kickoff.

Due to the number of good football games on this afternoon and evening, this will probably be the last time I enter blogdom today. Enjoy your first day of the New Year!

Carry on!

Frank sees the Tuna, Sean sees the Moose
Some rather prominent visitors showed up at Tech's practice right before noon at Nova Southeastern University as both Bill Parcells and Darryl "Moose" Johnston made an appearance.

Parcells, who won a Super Bowl as the head coach of the New York Giants and now serves as the head of football operations for the Miami Dolphins, chatted with Tech head coach Frank Beamer for probably 15 minutes while the Hokies stretched. Beamer then asked him to speak to the team right before the start of the Hokies' first period of practice and Parcells obliged.

Parcells told the team that he had kept up with the Virginia Tech program for the past 15 years and not just this year. He also said that he had coached some former Tech players and liked how they went about their business. He told them that, as the Dolphins' head of football operations, he was looking for players who were dependable and accountable. He didn't want players whom he couldn't count on.

He also warned the players that Kansas was the underdog. The Jayhawks were going to be playing with a chip on their shoulders, so the Hokies should be prepared for a scrap.

He closed his speech by telling them that he was a defensive guy.

"So you defensive guys better get after their [tails] Thursday night," he said. "I'm going to be at the game and I'll be watching. Good luck."

During the first period of practice, Beamer summoned both Cody Grimm and Brett Warren, the sons of former Redskin players Russ Grimm and Don Warren, respectively. Parcells knew Russ Grimm and Don Warren well, having coached against them while he was with the Giants. He told Brett Warren a story on his old man and told Brett to pass that along. Unfortunately, I wasn't close enough (or rude enough) to eavesdrop to get the entire story.

As for Johnston, he watched practice with several other Fox representatives. Johnston is going to be the color analyst for the game and hadn't seen the Hokies in person, though he had conversed on telephone with Beamer, defensive coordinator Bud Foster and offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring.

Johnston and the Fox people came to the team hotel after practice to chat more with the Tech contingent, including quarterback Sean Glennon, who had been looking forward to this for quite some time. Glennon is a huge Dallas Cowboys fan and loved watching the Moose during his playing days as a fullback for the Cowboys in the 1990s.

As for practice, it was again hot and humid. The only thing of note that occurred on the playing field was an ankle injury to Nekos Brown late in the practice. But the sophomore from Maryland didn't looked to be in too much pain as he left the field and should be good to go on Thursday night. Also, Tech's coaches held Vince Hall out of parts of practice just as a precaution. Hall has been bothered a little by a sore knee.

On another note, I had a nice conversation with Willie Flowers, the father of Brandon Flowers. Willie and several members of his family stopped by to watch practice. We talked about numerous topics, including all the driving he did to see Brandon play - something he's been doing ever since his kids got involved in sports. He even drove to Virginia to watch Brandon's games at Hargrave.

The Flowers family appears to be a strong one. Willie's nephew gave up Pop Warner football just so he could make the trip with Uncle Willie each weekend to see Brandon play.

Willie reiterated that he planned on letting Brandon make the decision on whether to leave school early and that they would discuss things after the bowl game. Interestingly, he also said he wanted to talk with Macho Harris, Tech's other defensive back who is contemplating the same move. Pointing out that Macho didn't redshirt and didn't spend a year at prep school like Brandon, he wants to make sure Macho puts a lot of extra time and thought into this decision.

That wraps up today's blog. There is nothing else scheduled for the players this afternoon or evening. Besides, it's New Year's Eve, so you don't need to be worrying about my drivel or the football team.

And if you're surfing the web on New Year's Eve after 5 p.m., you've got issues!

Happy New Year's and carry on!

Mid-morning update
Again, another early morning for one of the Orange Bowl's press conferences. Just got back from that one, which featured Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and four players - Xavier Adibi, Brandon Flowers, Macho Harris and Orion Martin. Some of the media hacks were upset that Chris Ellis and Barry Booker weren't there (both were on the schedule), but the Orange Bowl scheduled an FCA [Fellowship of Christian Athletes] breakfast at the same time, forcing the players to make a decision. So again, not good planning by the OB.

The topics of the press conference centered mostly on the lunch pail, the tragedy on April 16th and Kansas' offense. I'm not big on being a stenographer, so I'm not going to take the time to transcribe a bunch of quotes. My goal is to provide an off-the-field look at what's going on down here and let the local media hacks provide you with the football side of things.

However, the best quote of the press conference came from Foster, who was asked of his impressions of Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, his two starting linebackers, when they first arrived at Tech.

"Well, my impression of Vince was that he was fat," Foster said. "He came in here about 260. Now he's down to about 230."

Later, he added, "I'm going to miss all those seniors. This is a bittersweet game for me. I'm glad they're playing for us, but I'm going to miss them when they're gone."

Flowers actually discussed the NFL advising committee's determination that he's slotted to be a second-rounder in April's NFL Draft. To his credit, he could have easily refused to answer any question about that, but he answered all reporters' questions forthrightly.

"I'm blessed to be in this position," he said. "But I'm not going to let this be a distraction. I gave my commitment to these guys on this team to do my best and help us win this game. All my focus is on the game, and then after the game, I'll worry about it.

"I don't know how hard they [the NFL] grade you on that. My goal right now is just to try and make plays for this team, and then we'll see where everything else falls."

I'll post another blog after practice today, but there is not much scheduled for the players this afternoon and evening. Since it's New Year's Eve, there isn't any complimentary shuttle service for them, so my guess is that nearly all of them will be spending the evening at the hotel or at some place close by.

Carry on.

Busy day for the Hokies
For starters, my apologies for the lack of a blog earlier. The schedule today hasn't lent itself for multiple forays into blogdom, so I have decided to post one blog for the day.

There was a press conference this morning that featured offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring and six offensive players - Sean Glennon, Eddie Royal, Justin Harper, Duane Brown, Kenny Lewis, Jr., and Tyrod Taylor. Kudos to Bryan Johnston, often referred to as Tech's athletics communications "czar" and "BJ" (among other things - ha!), for rousing the players out of bed at 7 a.m. to get to the press conference by 8:15. He sweated Royal, who's as slow off the field as fast as he is on it, but three calls from Johnston to Royal and then a final one from Harper to Royal resulted in Eddie trudging to the departure point minutes before departure.

Not much came out of the press conference, to be honest. A bunch of Kansas's media members were there and the talk centered on Tech's dual-QB system. Virginia writers and broadcasters have written about that the past six weeks, so I'll spare you any more.

Glennon informed me that he had not heard from the NFL's advising committee. In fact, he even called his parents on the way back from the press conference to the team hotel and they hadn't received anything as of yet.

The big news of the day was that Brandon Flowers did hear back from the NFL's advising committee. I heard this at the press conference from a reporter, but wanted to get a firmer source, so I called Willie Flowers, Brandon's father, while at practice and he confirmed it. He said Brandon was projected as a second-round pick, which makes for an interesting upcoming decision for the young man.

"Ultimately, the decision is his," Willie Flowers said. "I'll offer suggestions, but I don't want to make it for him. I'm behind him 100 percent either way. One thing I don't want him to do is feel has to do it [go pro] because he feels he has to take care of our family. I've worked for Florida Power and Light for 28 years. Money's not a factor. Dad's fine."

Willie Flowers did say that he didn't expect Brandon to make any decision until after the bowl game, which is what Brandon said yesterday. They'll probably meet next week and discuss it further. Brandon is scheduled to be at a press conference tomorrow, so we'll get his comments on it tomorrow, though he may refuse to talk about it and instead focus on the game, which would be smart.

As for today's practice, the Hokies got after it for nearly two hours. This was slated to be their toughest practice of the week, and considering the heat - mid-80s with suffocating humidity again - it probably was.

The players got to enjoy an Orange Bowl-sponsored beach outing this afternoon at the Westin Diplomat, which is right on the beach, and the jet skis were the hit of the outing. Each player, if he chose, got to spend 10-15 minutes riding around in the ocean on a jet ski. There were six jet skis available and numerous players were taking advantage of it. Other players split into groups and got into a beach volleyball match, while others just horsed around in the ocean or worked on their tans. David Knachel, the athletics department photographer, pulled himself away from the snack bar long enough to take a few photos, which he will have posted later.

During the beach outing, DJ Khaled showed up. He's a world-famous DJ who lives and works in the Miami area. He's produced a couple of albums and also has worked with some of America's best rappers. Most of the players immediately recognized him and enjoyed chatting with him.

I also wanted to take a minute here in blogdom to give Jeremy Wells, our assistant AD for marketing, and his wife, Kelly, a shout out. The two of them found a $100 bill on the beach this morning - and turned it in. For those who know Jeremy, you know he's an upstanding dude. Of course, he may be ruing that decision later in the week, considering a cheeseburger here at the Westin Diplomat runs an obscene $20. Heck, I may end up running to lost and found to claim it myself.

That's about it for today. The beach outing ended at 4 and the players had the rest of the evening to do as they pleased. Curfew tonight is 2 a.m. and this will be the final 'late' night. Coach Beamer starts moving the curfew up tomorrow night.

Heading off to dinner, folks, as if I need it. Given the way I've eaten this week and the way I feel, I'm on pace to pass some of our linemen on the Toledos.

Bowden the top bowler
Blogdom, part III.

He can punt. He can play the guitar. Now, let it be said that Brent Bowden can bowl.

Bowden took home the top honors at the Hokies' bowling outing on Saturday evening, an event sponsored by the Orange Bowl. He bowled the highest game of any Hokie, recording a 204, and according to him, breaking his previous high of 199.

In a bit of a surprise - only because I didn't really picture him as a bowler - Stephan Virgil recorded the second-highest score of the evening, recording a 194 in one of his games. He left the 10 frame open, too, so if he had gotten the spare and gone on to the next frame, he'd have beaten Bowden.

Another solid effort put in was by Brian Saunders, who recorded a 189 in only his second bowling outing of the year. Saunders attributed his success to his days as a former pitcher - he's used to hitting targets.

Those with other fine scores included Michael Reid with a 169, Matt Baldwin with a 160, and Brett Warren with a 159. Warren and Cody Grimm were expected to record high scores, but Grimm wasn't feeling it on this evening.

Several players opted for billiards instead of bowling, but no one was able to take down Devin Perez, who obviously honed his skills at the local pool halls in his hometown of Sparta, N.J. Perez went 10-0 on the evening, beating the likes of Brandon Flowers, Macho Harris, and John Graves among others.

There was a sparse media turnout at the event, so you folks probably won't hear much about this one. Only a crew from Fox Sports, and from WSLS, an NBC affiliate out of Roanoke, showed up. We can only assume the rest of the media contingent was either cranking out stories for tomorrow or dialing it up in the hospitality suite at the media hotel. Probably the latter.

That's the final blog of the evening. Until the next time, carry on.

Hokies hold first practice in Ft. Lauderdale
Here's our second foray into blogdom. The Virginia Tech football team made the 30-minute trek to NOVA Southeastern University for a noon practice and the one thing that stood out was the heat. Temperatures soared into the mid-80s, and that, combined with the humidity, made for a long practice, even though Tech's traditional "Monday" practice is not that long. On a positive note, the players all made it through their post-practice conditioning - and with relative ease judging from my casual observations.

Even a couple of coaches got in the mix. John Ballein, a running 'freak,' ran sprints, and on the final sprint, ageless assistant Jim Cavanaugh ran with the linemen and forced Duane Brown and Barry Booker to haul tail just to beat him. Cav, also an avid jogger, will be making his 24th bowl appearance, quite an impressive number.

Before practice, several members of the media chatted with a few of the players, and I managed to catch up with three of them - Kenny Lewis, Jr., Brandon Flowers and Macho Harris.

Lewis received a lot of attention because he'll be starting in place of Branden Ore, who was late for a practice in Blacksburg and was suspended for the first quarter of the Orange Bowl. Lewis, Tech's No. 2 tailback, rushed for 184 yards and scored four touchdowns this season and will get the starting nod.

"That first quarter can be a real big difference [in the game]," Lewis said. "We're hoping to go out there and establish what we do and there's not going to be any fall off. We're out here practicing hard. Branden and I are practicing hard and learning from each other. Hopefully, I can go out there and make an impact for this team in that first quarter and then he'll come in and continue it."

Also, Flowers, a redshirt junior, and Harris, a junior, both say they haven't heard back from the NFL's advising committee concerning their draft status for the 2008 NFL Draft. Both are contemplating leaving school early, but only if assured of a first-round spot. Flowers had hoped to get the information back over the Christmas holidays and make a decision quickly after the bowl.

"I'm not worrying about it this week. I'm preparing for the game," Flowers said. "Once the game is over and once I hear back from them, I'll sit down with my family and we'll make the decision. But it's not going to happen until after the game."

"I don't know when it [the information] will come back," Harris said. "I'm not even sure of the process, to tell you the truth. I don't know if they mail it to you or call you or send it to the coaches. But if I don't hear back before the deadline [Jan. 15th], then I'm definitely coming back [to Tech]."

In all honesty, I forgot to ask Sean Glennon if he had heard - he, too, sent in the required paperwork. I'm assuming he hasn't, but I'll try to catch up with him later on about that. A press conference is scheduled for tomorrow and Glennon is scheduled to be there, so I may try to catch him then.

What else??? Hmmm, oh yes, Flowers failed miserably in his role as team tour guide, at least on the team's first night.

"I've got a head cold," he said. "I didn't even go out."

He's also struggling to secure enough tickets for his family members and friends. He has 10, but needs many more than that.

"The problem is a lot of guys' families are coming down, so the guys are keeping their tickets," he said. "Hopefully, I can secure a few more, but if not, I'm afraid some of my family and friends are going to have to pay."

On the curfew front, no one received a Greyhound bus ticket this morning, so you all know what that means - there were no problems. Tech head coach Frank Beamer joked that all staff members made it back by the appropriate time as well.

Most players headed to the pool or the beach for the remainder of Saturday afternoon. Some were contemplating renting jet skis, and if that happens, I'll try to get David Knachel, our resident shutterbug (photographer), to get some photos.

The players will be attending a bowling outing this evening, one sponsored by the Orange Bowl. We'll get another blog up after that. I'm anxious to see how Brett Warren and Cody Grimm do - sources say those two are ringers.

Time to head to the pool. The rest of you (especially the one suffering in south-central NY) - carry on.

Welcome to the opening Orange Bowl blog
In an effort to keep you fans appraised of the latest happenings among the Hokies at the Orange Bowl, we've decided to launch an Orange Bowl blog, marking yet another foray in the world of blogdom. This could be a collaborative effort by the athletics communications staff, but for the most part, will include the random musings of me, Jimmy Robertson, the editor of Hokiesports the Newspaper.

Today marked the travel party's first day in Florida. The travel party split up and arrived on two planes. The coaches and the players left Blacksburg at 8 a.m. and arrived in south Florida around noon, while the rest of the party - administrators, student managers, student trainers, spouses, children, etc. came down on the second plane and arrived around 3 p.m. In all, both groups combined totaled more than 200 people.

Early this afternoon, the players traveled to the team's practice site for the week, Nova Southeastern University, for a brief workout that consisted of mainly stretching and running. Full-scale preparations begin late Saturday morning.

For those wondering, the weather was a balmy 82 degrees, with partly cloudy skies and a slight breeze, which pales to the sub-50 degree and rainy weather in Blacksburg on Friday morning. It was a tad humid in south Florida, but certainly there are worse places to be (like a good friend of ours, you could be buried in snow in a rural town in south-central New York trying to survive the holidays by spending quality time with a semi-dysfunctional family).

The players had the evening to do as they pleased, provided they were in their rooms by the 2 a.m. curfew. Or else they run the risk of enjoying the Greyhound experience - a bus ride home to Roanoke, which takes 29 hours from south Florida (three transfers). In what has become an annual tradition, Keith Short, who now is a strength and conditioning assistant coach, got to get up in front of the team today and talk about his Greyhound experience. As a freshman redshirting in 1995, Short stayed out all night on Bourbon Street while at the Sugar Bowl, and when he got back to the hotel, John Ballein handed him a bus ticket and told him to hit the road. The infamous event is still talked about among Hokie Nation even 12 years later, though in fairness to Short, he turned out to be a good player, got his undergraduate degree, and later got his master's degree from Tech.

The rest of the travel party enjoyed a veritable feast at the Westin Diplomat, the team's travel headquarters. The feast was sponsored by the Orange Bowl, and thanks to the absences of Bill Roth and Mike Burnop - who are in New York City calling the basketball games - there was plenty of food for everyone. Shrimp, pork tenderloin, crab cakes, oysters on the half shell, crab legs, and for those afraid to expand their culinary horizons, chicken tenders.

Let me think for a minute, anything else? Oh yes, Jim Weaver, Tech's AD, wasn't afraid to show his age. In a brief spiel at dinner among the Orange Bowl committee members, he said he hadn't been to an Orange Bowl since the last time that - get this - Kansas had played in the game back in 1969. Weaver served as a coach on the Penn State squad that downed Kansas that day 38 years ago.

We'll try to get into more football stuff tomorrow (Saturday). Until then, signing off from Hollywood (Fla., that is). Carry on.