for this game

Virginia edges Wake Forest, remains atop ACC Coastal division

Nov 3, 2007 - 10:28 PM CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (Ticker) -- Mikell Simpson and Virginia apparently enjoy thrilling finishes.

Simpson rushed for the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter Saturday as Virginia held on for a 17-16 victory over 21st-ranked Wake Forest in a pivotal Atlantic Coast Conference contest.

It marked the fifth time this season that the Cavaliers (8-2, 5-1 ACC Coastal) won by two points or less - an NCAA record for teams from the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"I'm happy to win and proud for the team for being able to do that," Virginia coach Al Groh said.

The Demon Deacons had a chance to win this one, but Sam Swank missed a 47-yard field goal as time expired.

"Everyone around our organization preaches the importance of not cracking," Simpson added. "We know if we keep working hard and playing until the final gun, we have a good chance of things working out for us."

With the victory, Virginia remained atop the conference's Coastal division, one-half game ahead of Virginia Tech (7-2, 4-1). The in-state rivals square off here on November 24 in a game which likely will determine the division's representative in the ACC championship game.

Two weeks ago, Simpson scored the game-winning TD with 16 seconds remaining to lift the Cavaliers to an 18-17 victory at Maryland. The win came one week after a 17-16 triumph over Connecticut.

Virginia's seven-game winning streak ended in disappointing fashion last week, as North Carolina State rallied for a 29-24 victory. But the Cavaliers bounced back this week despite squandering a 10-6 halftime lead.

"These two teams over the last two years have had more last-minute finishes than any two other teams in the conference," Groh said. "We showed a great deal of resiliency and mental toughness throughout the course of the game."

Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner fired a 13-yard TD to Kenneth Moore to make it 13-10 with 2:10 left in the third quarter. Swank's 31-yard field goal five minutes into the fourth quarter made it 16-10.

But Virginia re-claimed the lead with a 10-play, 56-yard drive capped by Simpson's one-yard score with 2:18 remaining.

"It was a power run from one yard out, Ian (Yates Cunningham) came around and got a great pulling block," Simpson said. "I just waited for the hole to open up and cut back. From there, I knew all I had to do was follow him into the end zone."

The Cavaliers prolonged the drive by converting a crucial 4th-and-3 from the Wake Forest 25, as Jameel Sewell completed an 11-yard pass to Maurice Covington.

"I definitely knew it was coming to me," Covington said. "The play was designed to come to me so I just got to my area, secured the ball, made sure I had it and then got down."

Skinner marched the Demon Deacons back down the field on the ensuing drive, setting up Swank's 47-yard attempt. But the kick sailed to the right of the upright, ending Wake Forest's six-game winning streak.

"We felt like we were in (Swank's) range," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "We would have certainly liked to get more from those two runs we had. But from our perspective, that was easy length for Sam."

"When the kicked missed, I was probably the happiest person in the world," Sewell said. "After all we had been through during that game, there is no feeling like coming out with a big win."

Simpson ran for just 34 yards on 17 carries. But the sophomore hauled in eight receptions for 77 yards for the Cavaliers.

Sewell finished 20-of-43 for 225 yards and one TD - a 39-yard strike to Covington with 10 seconds left in the first half.

Skinner completed 20-of-26 passes for 175 yards, a TD and an interception for Wake Forest (6-3, 4-2 Atlantic), which has lost 20 of its last 21 meetings with Virginia.