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UVa pulls out another dramatic win

By Andy Bitter
Lynchburg News & Advance
October 21, 2007

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Of the 67 players who traveled with Virginia for the Maryland game Saturday night, 66 of them would have been a safer bet to be the star than tailback Mikell Simpson.

It seems fitting that the ACC's unlikeliest leader is in that position because of an unlikely hero.

Simpson finished with 271 total yards and two touchdowns, the second of which came on a one-yard plunge with 16 seconds left to lift Virginia to an improbable 18-17 come-from-behind win over Maryland at Byrd Stadium.

Simpson had 16 carries for 119 yards and 13 catches for 152 yards.

"He really stepped up and showed what he can do today," Virginia coach Al Groh said.

The Cavaliers (7-1, 4-0 ACC), who tied the school record with their seventh straight win, have won two straight games by one point and five this season by five points or fewer.

That Simpson even had a major role was shocking. The sophomore got in for one play last week against Connecticut. He had 90 total yards in his entire career entering Saturday, but was called upon because Andrew Pearman was dealing with unspecified health problems.

Simpson was Virginia's go-to guy all night, especially with the game on the line. Trailing 17-12, the Cavaliers needed to go 90 yards in the final 7:42 to win the game. They did just that.

Simpson had 14 touches and gained 92 yards on the final drive (UVa was backed up by several penalties). He caught a 15-yard screen pass to get the ball to the Maryland 45, then followed it up with runs of seven and eight yards.

Virginia was flagged for a holding penalty on its next play and, even worse, watched quarterback Jameel Sewell limp off the field with an injury.

When Sewell returned two plays and a delay of game penalty later, UVa faced a third-and-16. Sewell threw a pass to Maurice Covington that fell incomplete, but the official raced up the field to throw a late flag for pass interference on Maryland's Kevin Barnes.

Three plays later, the Cavaliers faced fourth-and-four at the Maryland 10. Sewell, as he had done numerous times all day, threw a swing pass to Simpson, who darted toward the left sideline and the marker. He got it by an inch, a spot that was upheld by replay.

Simpson caught a shovel pass on the next play for nine yards, getting down to the one-yard line. With 16 seconds left, he vaulted over the top of the pile for the go-ahead score. Officials reviewed the play to see if he had fumbled, but it was ruled he didn't.

Maryland (4-3, 1-2) has two conferences losses, one in overtime and one by one point.

Despite being playing without preseason All-American guard Andrew Crummey, the Terrapins were able to control the line of scrimmage in the first half. They led 14-3, getting 104 first-half rushing yards and two touchdowns from the tailback combination of Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball.

Virginia entered the game with the third-best rushing defense in ACC games, allowing 88.3 yards a game.

But it was Simpson up the middle on a 44-yard touchdown run that pulled Virginia within 14-10 heading into halftime.

Obi Egekeze made a 41-yard field goal with 8:53 left in the third to put the Terps up 17-10.

Late in the third quarter, Virginia faced a fourth-and-six from the Maryland 33. Instead of trying a long field goal, the Cavaliers punted. Chris Gould pinned Maryland at its eight-yard line with a 25-yard punt.

It paid off. On the Terrapins' next play, Chris Long made an inside move and sacked Chris Turner in the end zone for a safety to get UVa within 17-12 on the last play before the end of the quarter.

Long had two sacks and 3 1/2 tackles for a loss in the game.

"Clearly there is no better football player in college football than Chris Long," Groh said. "He performs like a star but doesn't act like a star."

Virginia held Maryland to 64 yards of offense in the second half and just two first downs.

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