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Player's conduct concerns Zook

By Times wire and staff reports
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 4, 2002

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Ron Zook said Tuesday that he doesn't believe offensive lineman Mo Mitchell intentionally tried to injure Florida State players in Saturday's game in Tallahassee, but the sophomore could be disciplined for actions that led to costly penalties.

Mitchell, 22, was called for several personal fouls, and some FSU players said Mitchell intentionally tried to injure several players with chop blocks, including freshman defensive lineman Broderick Bunkley. Bunkley, a Tampa native who played at Chamberlain, left the game about four minutes into the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return.

"Mo, I've talked to him a couple of times on the phone," Zook said. "I don't really want to say a lot because I have not talked to Mo yet face to face. I want to talk to Mo because I'm concerned about it because we've talked so hard about that, of maintaining our poise, that things are going to happen.

"That's the one thing you talk about and worry about. It makes no difference what was done to him, the second guy always gets it. If there is a 100 percent rule in football that is a 100 percent rule: The second guy gets in trouble."

Zook said he will talk to Mitchell about the conduct he expects when UF plays Michigan in the Outback Bowl. Mitchell will play only if he abides by those rules, Zook said.

Motor City eyes USF

TAMPA -- With Iowa and Ohio State locked into BCS bowls, the Big Ten will not fulfill its bowl tie-ins, leaving the Motor City Bowl to choose an at-large team. South Florida (9-2) is one of essentially four candidates to play Toledo in the Dec. 26 game at Pontiac, Mich.

Motor City Bowl executive director Ken Hoffman said the bowl would choose an ACC team (probably Wake Forest), Big 12 team (probably Texas A&M or Iowa State), Big East team (probably Boston College) or USF.

The ACC and Big 12 each has a surplus of one bowl-eligible team, and the Big East likely will have one extra since Notre Dame appears likely to be bumped from the BCS. The Irish then would take a Big East-allotted bowl slot, probably the Gator Bowl.

Coach Jim Leavitt downplayed all the bowl scenarios but added he probably would watch Cincinnati at East Carolina on Friday. An ECU win would leave C-USA with four bowl-eligible teams for five spots. That would create an at-large berth opposite Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl.

"I don't think it's all about Cincinnati-East Carolina," Leavitt said. "Certainly everyone knows that if East Carolina wins, it helps us. But if it doesn't, it doesn't mean we're out. Nor does Cincinnati losing mean we're in. It's a chance, better than it was."

Penn St. to Orlando

Penn State returned to the postseason after a two-year absence, accepting an invitation to play in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on New Year's Day.

The Nittany Lions will face a team from the SEC in the game formerly known as the Florida Citrus Bowl. Still in the running for the game are Georgia, Arkansas and Auburn (8-4), said Tom Mickle, the bowl's executive director.

No. 4 Georgia plays No. 22 Arkansas in the SEC Championship Game Saturday. The winner likely play in the Sugar Bowl.

Penn State's acceptance ended nearly two weeks of uncertainty concerning the 10th-ranked Nittany Lions' postseason plans.

"I cannot tell you how many people, including my own family, have said to me, 'Where are you going?' My mother in law is driving me nuts," coach Joe Paterno said.

Penn State was chosen instead of No. 3 Iowa.

"We were informed by the Big Ten that the clock was running, it was our turn to pick and Iowa and Ohio State were not available," Mickle said.

The Hawkeyes (11-1) are eligible for at-large BCS bowl berths in addition to Notre Dame, Texas and Kansas State. Southern Cal, Oklahoma and Georgia could be added to that mix if they don't win their respective conference titles, the BCS said Tuesday.

GAMES OKAY: None of the 28 games appear to be in jeopardy although about half of them must submit a letter of credit by the end of the week to keep NCAA certification. Two bowls, Seattle Bowl and the Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., were late sending in letters intent, NCAA spokesman Dennis Poppe said.

ALABAMA: University trustee Peter Lowe doesn't buy speculation that coach Dennis Franchione will leave for Texas A&M -- or anywhere else. "I'll be surprised if he doesn't stay and is not our coach next year," Lowe said. He said he believes a contract extension has "basically been worked out." Franchione and his players returned to campus shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday from Honolulu, where Alabama beat Hawaii 21-16 Saturday night.

CLEMSON: Coach Tommy Bowden dismissed starting linebacker Eric Sampson from the team because of academic problems.

-- Times staff writers Antonya English and Pete Young, and correspondent Anthony Gagliano contributed to this report.

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