Tech news from the Big Easy
December 28, 1999
By Jimmy Robertson
Editor, Hokie Huddler

In 1995, Virginia Tech arrived in New Orleans with little fanfare or media attention as it prepared to take on Texas in the Sugar Bowl in a game that meant little to people outside of the two schools involved.

Almost five years later, the times have changed.

With a five-man jazz band playing, a horde of Sugar Bowl committee members waiting and a swarm of media members with pens, microphones and cameras in hand standing in line, Tech landed in the Crescent City on Monday morning to begin preparations for top-ranked Florida State in a battle to determine the national championship.

But the Hokies have more to deal with on this trip than just the Seminoles. They must corner all the distractions of Bourbon Street, the French Quarter and Harrah's Casino in addition to dealing with the overwhelming throng of media attending every practice.

"I want our kids to enjoy this," Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. "It's an exciting time. But our focus has to be on our preparation for Florida State. That's going to be the key thing for us this week."

The Hokies started those preparations Monday afternoon with a 90-minute practice at Tulane University. On Monday evening, a representative from the New Orleans Police Department addressed the Hokies about the trouble spots in the city.

"This is my first time down here and this is the first time for a lot of the guys," defensive end Corey Moore said. "We're going to see some distractions, but we've got a job to do here. That's what we're focused on."

Tech's players survived their first night in the Crescent City as every single one of the 112 players who made the trip made the 2 a.m. curfew.

"And nearly all of them were in well before that," Beamer said.

The Hokies also practiced Tuesday morning and will practice Wednesday morning before taking a day off on Thursday. After that, the Hokies will begin their normal game week schedule, starting with Friday's practice.
Deja vous:
Florida State actually got to choose its practice site by virtue of being the No. 1 team and Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden chose the Superdome.

Which was fine with Tech. The Hokies, who can practice at the Superdome if they choose or if the weather gets bad, won the 1995 Sugar Bowl while practicing on the grass fields at Tulane.

"This is the way we did it the last time and it worked out pretty well for us," Beamer said. "We're not worried about whether or not we practice on turf. We used to make a big deal of it. But we work out so much indoors any more at our indoor facility [Rector Fieldhouse] that it doesn't matter."
Early arrival:
The Hokies arrived in New Orleans one day earlier than the Seminoles, who arrived on Tuesday. Tech officials originally thought the travel party was supposed to be in New Orleans on Dec. 27 and thus made plans accordingly. Instead of changing those plans to come down on the 28th, the Hokies' contingent went ahead and came a day early.

"We got a short workout in and got our feet on the ground," Beamer said. "We have to make sure our practices don't get stale. We're going to be down here a long time and we, as coaches need to keep practices lively. I think our senior leadership will help with that too."
Hokies hit Bourbon Street:
Before Tuesday's workout, several Tech players were asked if they went to Bourbon Street and asked their thoughts on the nightlife of the area. Tech quarterback Michael Vick enjoyed his journey of Bourbon Street after hearing so much about it the past month. Vick had never heard of Bourbon Street until a reporter brought it up before the Boston College game.

"I enjoyed it," Vick said. "I didn't stay out that long. I wanted to come in and get some sleep before practice this morning. But I'm pretty sure I'll go back again."

But a couple of players, most noticeably tailback Shyrone Stith and defensive end Corey Moore, stayed in their rooms.

"I was tired," Stith said. "I just wanted to relax. But I'll probably see the sights tonight [Tuesday night]."
Injury report:
Tech cornerback Ronyell Whitaker badly sprained his knee in Tuesday's practice and probably will miss Wednesday's workout. Tech's training staff hopes it is nothing serious. The built-in day off on Thursday should benefit Whitaker.

Tech needs the redshirt freshman at full strength when the Hokies take on the Seminoles and their talented receiving group. Whitaker's play allows the Hokies to move Anthony Midget to safety, enabling Tech to better defend the pass.