Mikell Simpson tallied 271 yards of total offense and two TD’s, including the game winner
Same song. Same verse.
Virginia’s life on the edge continued Saturday night as the Cavaliers pulled off some late game magic for the third straight week en route to an 18-17 win at Maryland. Chris Gould had waved the magic wand the previous two weeks but this time the last-gasp hocus pocus belonged to Mikell Simpson , who made himself reappear to the tune of 271 total yards and the game-winning touchdown. Simpson delivered the go-ahead score with 16 seconds remaining when he got the ball across the goal line while diving for the end zone.
“It was an inspiring effort. These players have a lot of heart. This is another example of the team power they have worked so hard to build – the confidence they have in each other and the way everyone has everyone else’s back. Guys had to step up and make plays. We believe that if one guy makes a play, we all make a play; if one guy has a hard time, we all have a hard time,” UVa coach Al Groh said. “There was great confidence on the sidelines, especially in the latter part of the game. The players had great confidence and faith in themselves. Obviously, there were some great calls upstairs that [the game] came down to. There were some pretty gutsy calls and some pretty gutsy execution when the game was on the line. Once again, we’re showing that this is a team that isn’t going to crack.”
The Hoos had trailed for most of the evening, but steadily chipped away at the 14-3 deficit before winning the game in the final moments. Simpson scored both of the team’s touchdowns, adding a 44-yard run in addition to his late score. The other points came from a Gould field goal on the first drive of the game and a Chris Long sack for a safety.
In the end, that’s all Virginia needed. Which shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, doing enough to win has become this team’s M.O. That’s translated into seven straight victories, many of the gray-hair inducing variety – holding off Duke and UNC, pouncing on a key turnover against Georgia Tech, kicking late field goals against Middle Tennessee State and Connecticut, and a final-minute touchdown dive at Maryland.
Chris Long racked up 10 tackles, including a sack for a safety
“We believe that however the game presents itself, our job is to find a way to win. We have confidence in being able to do that,” Groh said. “There are new challenges every week and just because we excelled in one circumstance doesn’t mean we will in another. We have the confidence that whatever we’re presented with, we’ll be able to cope.”
The Cavaliers pulled out the game-winning touchdown at the end of a 90-yard drive in the final 8 minutes. The Hoos overcame ineligible man downfield, delay of game, and holding penalties during the scoring march. They also converted – barely – a 4th-and-4 play inside the Maryland 15 to keep the drive alive. On that play, Simpson caught a short pass and then dove toward the stick with the ball extended. The spot and measurement, which were upheld by review, gave UVa the first down by the nose of the football.
One other critical play of the second half came courtesy of Long. On the safety that pulled UVa to within 5 points, Long beat the initial block and ran by a late double team attempt before leveling the Terps’ Chris Turner.
That play was a snapshot of an outstanding night for the Cavaliers’ star defensive end. He finished with two sacks (beating double teams on both plays), 10 tackles, and 2 pass break-ups. He seemed to kick it up a notch early in the game after the Terrapins marched down the field with a strong running game and scored two touchdowns. After those two scores, however, Long was everywhere on the next possessions and the defense followed his lead. The Hoos allowed just three more points the rest of the way.
“We knew Maryland’s capabilities coming into the game. They have great running backs and a physical offensive line. We were not making plays in the first half,” Long said. “We made some adjustments in the second half. [The coaches] made some great calls and things went in our favor.”
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