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Virginia hopes Mikell Simpson (5) can suit up to face the Terps today. If not, the Cavs will turn to Rashawn Jackson.
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
CHARLOTTESVILLE--During the Virginia football team's preparation for Indiana last week, players were told to do as much Internet research as possible to find information on the Hoosiers' personnel.
That probably wasn't necessary this week, when the Cavaliers prepared for Atlantic Coast Conference rival Maryland (2-4, 1-1 ACC).
Resurgent Virginia, winners of two straight games, visit the struggling Terrapins today at 4 p.m. in an ACC clash at Byrd Stadium.
The Cavaliers (2-3, 1-0) have nine players from Maryland and the Terrapins' roster consists of 15 Virginia natives.
Cavaliers' senior linebacker Aaron Clark said that usually adds up to "a different level of intensity" than normal.
"All these guys have known each other, went to school together, competed against each other for years," Clark said. "There's a lot of personal emotion that goes into that It's not 'This is another team on our schedule.' This is backyard football. You feel like you can go pick up a game in the streets and play these same guys."
Six of the eight meetings since Cavaliers head coach Al Groh and Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen took over at their alma maters in 2001 have been decided by 10 or more points.
But the last time the Cavaliers and Terrapins played at Maryland, Virginia won in an 18-17 thriller.
Clark said that game, which Virginia won on running back Mikell Simpson's 1-yard touchdown run with 16 seconds left, was a classic in the rivalry.
"The energy in that stadium was one of the most surreal experiences I've experienced in my life," Clark said. "It was definitely something I'll remember forever."
Simpson will remember that game forever, too.
He placed himself in Virginia lore after amassing 271 total yards (119 rushing, 152 receiving) in the first significant action of his career.
Simpson, now a senior, is doubtful for today's game with a neck injury he suffered in Virginia's 47-7 win over Indiana.
If Simpson (149 total yards, four touchdowns against Indiana) can't play, senior fullback Rashawn Jackson will likely carry the load, with redshirt freshman Torrey Mack serving as his backup.
"We are both ready to go," Jackson said of himself and Mack.
The Cavaliers defense has certainly been ready the past two weeks.
It allowed North Carolina and Indiana to score a combined 10 points. It has risen to No. 25 in the nation in total defense (295.8 yards per game). The Cavaliers' offense (536 yards against Indiana) has also greatly improved the past three games.
That could mean trouble for Maryland, which ranks 102nd in the nation in total defense (406.3 yards allowed per game).
Maryland also ranks 117th in turnover margin (-1.67) and 114th in points allowed (36.0).
When Groh was asked about Maryland, he mentioned only wide receiver/kick returner Torrey Smith, a Stafford High grad, and quarterback Chris Turner.
"He's really one of the exciting, dynamic players in the [ACC]," Groh said of Smith. "He runs reverses. He's caught the ball. He's returned kicks. He does a variety of things. He's not just a receiver, but he's got good elusiveness, good vertical speed."
Maryland guard Bruce Campbell (leg) and linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield (hand) are questionable for today's game.
Simpson (neck) is doubtful for Virginia. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Javaris Brown (ankle) won't play.
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526
|VIRGINIA (2-3) at MARYLAND (2-4) WHEN: Today, 4 p.m. WHERE: Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md. TV: ESPNU RADIO: WRGQ-FM 95.9, WJFK-FM 106.7|