Virginia Rallies to Upset No. 21 Wake Forest
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Virginia has won so many close games this season, the Cardiac Cavaliers are starting to repeat themselves when the outcome is on the line.
Mikell Simpson ran 1 yard for a touchdown with 2:18 to play Saturday as No. 23 Virginia posted a 17-16 win over Wake Forest (No. 24 BCS, No. 21 AP), the Cavaliers’ third one-point victory in four games.
The winning play was identical to the one Simpson scored on with 16 seconds to play against Maryland, providing an 18-17 victory two weeks ago.
Wake Forest (6-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) drove to Virginia’s 30 in the closing seconds, but Sam Swank, one of the best kickers in the ACC, missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt with two seconds left. He had made 13-of-14 field-goal attempts before missing his last two tries against Virginia.
“For some reason, we click at the end,” tight end Tom Santi said. “We’ve got the confidence that we’ve done it before, so when we get those situations, nobody’s panicked. We can all say, ‘We’ve been here before. We can do this.'”
They’ve done it over and over. Three weeks ago, the Cavaliers beat Connecticut 17-16 on Chris Gould’s 19-yard field goal with just 3:20 remaining. With two-point victories against North Carolina and Middle Tennessee, Virginia has set an NCAA record with five victories by two points or less. Columbia, in 1971, had won four by two or less.
“I don’t have to explain,” Virginia defensive end Chris Long said. “We’ll take ’em.”
Virginia (8-2, 5-1) moved back into first place in the Coastal Division, a half-game ahead of rival Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers play at Miami next week, have an open date and then host the Hokies in a possible showdown for a berth in the ACC title game.
Wake Forest, the defending ACC champion, had its six-game winning streak snapped.
“Missing the last field goal was a very small part of the game,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “We had opportunities in the first half and the second half that we didn’t take advantage of both offensively and defensively. It’s really a team loss.”
Virginia trailed 16-10 when it got the ball at its 44 with about six minutes to play and used almost four minutes to drive for the go-ahead points. Jameel Sewell completed a 10-yard pass to Maurice Covington on fourth-and-2 from the Demon Deacons’ 24 to keep it going and then almost ran it in on the next play, getting tripped at the 3.
Two plays later, Simpson scored.
“It’s one thing to practice in those situations, but when you experience them in a game firsthand, it’s something that you really can’t practice for,” Simpson said. “The more games we finish like that, the more confidence we have in those types of games.”
Wake Forest took over at its 27 and drove to Virginia’s 30 behind the passing of Riley Skinner. Once in Swank’s range, however, Wake ran the ball on consecutive plays to set up for the field goal, and Swank missed it to the right.
“That was the right call given the history this kid had,” Groh said of using the ground game to keep possession of the ball and set things up for Swank.
When he didn’t, the Cavaliers had won another nail-biter.
“It seems like there’s something special about this team,” Cavs linebacker Clint Sintim said. “It’s been crazy. If I wasn’t as young as I am, I might have a heart attack.”
An interception by Ras-I Dowling set up Virginia at Wake Forest’s 27 in the third quarter, and the Cavaliers elected to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the 19 rather than try a field goal. Sewell’s fourth-down pass for Jonathan Stupar was too high.
“I maybe got a little bit carried away there,” Groh said of the decision to try and cash in big on the turnover. A field goal would have made it 13-6, but when Virginia came up empty, Skinner and the Demon Deacons made it a bad decision.
Wake Forest drove 81 yards behind its savvy quarterback, who hit Kenny Moore for 25 yards on a third-and-8, took a quarterback sneak 2 yards to the Virginia 32 on a fourth-and-1 and ran 12 yards when all his receivers were covered to the Cavaliers 18 on another third-and-8. On the touchdown, he scrambled to his right and had room to run, but stopped just before the line and threw to Moore in the end zone.
That gave Wake Forest the lead at 13-10. Skinner finished 20-for-26 for 175 yards.
Sewell was 20-for-43 for 225 and a 39-yard touchdown to Covington with 10 seconds left in the first half.