Virginia Tech running back Branden Ore, the Hokies' leading rusher, is suspended for the first quarter of the Orange Bowl because he was late to the final practice before the Christmas break, a school spokesman confirmed today. Sophomore Kenny Lewis will start against Kansas.
Athletic department spokesman Bryan Johnston told The Associated Press in a phone interview from
Hollywood, Fla. on Friday night, that Ore was about 45 minutes late to practice on
Dec. 21, the team's last workout before Christmas break.
Ore leads the team with 876 yards and eight rushing touchdowns. Lewis has played in all 13 games this season, but this will be his first start. He is third on the team behind quarterback Tyrod Taylor with 53 carries for 183 yards and four touchdowns.
Associate head coach Billy Hite supported the school's decision and
"I talked with Coach [Frank] Beamer on Friday and I recommended that we suspend Branden for a quarter," Hite was quoted as saying in the Roanoke Times. "I'm not putting up with that kind of stuff. In order for us to win ball games, we can't have guys showing up at practice whenever they want to. Everybody else made it to practice on time, so there's no excuse for Branden not making it, too."
Ore has run into trouble with Virginia Tech coaches before.
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound junior showed up at Tech's preseason
camp out of shape. The 2006 first-team All-ACC tailback was dropped
to third string on the depth chart and had to work his way back up
to the top spot.
Ore only started to hit his stride late in the regular season. Even he admitted he was at his best in November with 81 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-14 victory against Miami, and said his health and an improving offensive line share the credit.
"I'm 100 percent now. I know it's late in the season, but it happened," he said of finally shaking some nagging injuries that conspired to make him less effective. "Right now, I'm just happy to be a part of this."
Information from ESPN.com college football writer Heather Dinich and The Associated Press was used in this report.