Virginia running back Mikell Simpson, who also wears #5, has really come on strong late in the season.
When both the first and second string running backs went down with injuries, head coach Al Groh put in Simpson when the Cavaliers were in a close game against Maryland. Simpson didn't disappoint, running for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns and catching 13 passes for 152 yards.
"I have been waiting for this opportunity ever since I left high school," said Simpson after the Maryland game. "I came to Virginia thinking I can do the same thing I did in high school. Tonight, the opportunity presented itself and I took full advantage of it."
Simpson carried that momentum throughout the rest of the season, rushing and receiving for 744 yards and 8 touchdowns in the Cavaliers' last 5 games of the season.
"That gives me a lot of confidence that it wasn't just a one-game luck thing,'' Simpson said about his continued success. "To keep contributing to the wins and being a vital part of the offense gives me a lot of confidence every game I go into."
After all his late-season success, the Cavalier offense began to depend on Simpson more and more. This posed a serious problem when he ran in to academic issues after the Fall semester.
When the entire Virginia team left for Jacksonville on Tuesday to prepare for their matchup against Texas Tech in the Gator Bowl, Simpson wasn't on the flight.
According to a report from TV station WCAV out of Virginia, Simpson flew to Jacksonville late Thursday evening to join the team.
|Michael Crabtree has had one of the|
best season's ever for a wide receiver
Virginia head coach Al Groh knows what he is getting into when his players step on the field and try to defend one of the nation's best receivers.
"Michael Crabtree is perhaps the top receiver in the country with 125 catches and 21 touchdowns," said Groh. "Those are unbelievable numbers."
Groh was able to catch the Texas Tech/Oklahoma game on television, where Crabtree torched the Sooner defense for 154 yards and a touchdown on 13 catches, and walked away very impressed with what he saw.
"It was very apparent watching that [Oklahoma] game, that not only is he a talented receiver, but when he had the ball in his hands, if you turned the screen on at that particular moment and didn't know how he got the ball, you would think he was a running back. He's a very elusive athlete to catch. He's very difficult to contain before the catch."
Both Crabtree and Simpson will get their chance to showcase their talent to the country on Jan. 1st, when they face off in the nationally televised Gator Bowl.
Kickoff is set for 12 pm ET on CBS.