Mikell Simpson scored two TDs.
Virginia’s heart-stopping style finally turned into a heartbreaker.
The Cavaliers have won five games by six points or less, including three straight come-from-behind victories with late fourth quarter scores. They couldn’t pull off the Raleigh rally, however, as N.C. State delivered the Hoos’ first ACC loss of the season, 29-24.
“I just think that [N.C. State] played a real good ballgame. There are lots of games that go that way. I wouldn’t call it winning on the edge – I’d say we did whatever we had to win in previous games and in this particular game we didn’t do enough to win,” Cav coach Al Groh said. “We didn’t make enough plays, and State made more plays than we did and usually that’s the case.”
Early in the fourth quarter, it looked like UVa had one more trick up its sleeve. Trailing 23-17, the Cavs opened a drive in N.C. State territory and they took advantage of the situation. Last week’s hero Mikell Simpson starred on the drive, getting the call three times. Following a fourth down conversion run by Jameel Sewell , Simpson capped things off with a 5-yard touchdown run and Chris Gould ‘s extra point gave Virginia the 24-23 lead with 13:12 remaining. The score was Simpson’s second touchdown of the day; he finished with 81 yards rushing on 21 carries and 35 yards receiving on 4 catches.
The UVa defense responded to the go-ahead score with a big play of its own on NCSU’s ensuing possession. Daniel Evans tried to throw a pass down the right sidelines when Ras-I Dowling rotated back and made the leaping interception. That turnover, which marked N.C. State’s 41st straight game with a turnover against Virginia, stopped a drive that was closing in on field goal range.
It also provided a bit of deceptive foreshadowing.
The Wolfpack held on defense and their offense quickly made up for the mistake. How? With two déjà vu passes on patterns similar to the interception. Evans dropped back and arched two fade passes to the right sideline to rapidly cover 60 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown. Donald Bowens hauled in the TD pass. Dowling had the coverage on both passes and his position wasn’t quite good enough to deflect the passes.
Bowens finished with 11 receptions, 202 yards, and two touchdowns.
“He had a couple of those plays last week. We were well aware of the fact and rehearsed as best we could without having him on our team. We were well aware of the fact that the vertical routes were pretty much throw it up there and let-him-jump-for-the-ball plays. It’s like an alley-oop in basketball,” Groh said. “The quarterback put it where he could get it and he did a real good job of getting up for it and out jumped our guy for it.”
Bowens’ final score gave N.C. State the final margin of 29-24 as Peter Lalich couldn’t produce a comeback drive in place of an injured Sewell. Lalich finished 2 of 8 and the team gained just one first down with him under center. The Cavs’ starting quarterback left the field late in the fourth quarter after scrambling to avoid pressure. Up to that point, he had completed 24 of 43 passes for 260 yards; Sewell had 2 touchdown throws, including the first of Cary Koch’s Cav career, and 2 interceptions.
“[Jameel] cramped up seriously, not just in one spot but pretty much every place. Usually, when the tank runs down that low, quick-fix methods that the medical people try to take, it’s pretty hard to get him to fill back up,” Groh said. “Usually a good night’s sleep and quite a bit of liquids and then they feel better the next day. Given the extent of what the cramps were, we were pretty certain that he wouldn’t be back.”
Note: Chris Long recorded his 11th sack of the season when Evans committed intentional grounding while being drilled by Long.
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