It wasn't exactly the entrance David Rivers envisioned but it was the opportunity he craved.
Virginia's junior backup quarterback was baptized by fire last Saturday night. Cavaliers coach George Welsh lost starter Dan Ellis to a concussion just before halftime. Welsh handed Rivers the reins as the Cavs left the locker room at halftime leading Florida State 10-7.
The former Lakeside Panther had thrown just two passes prior to last week's appearance. Rivers didn't hesitate to accept the challenge, however.
"When you get your shot, you don't expect it to be against the No. 1 team in the nation but it is what you play for," Rivers said. "You have to be on the ball and be crisp."
Florida State rallied for a 35-10 victory over Virginia. While his debut was far from spectacular (4-for-11, 32 yards, one interception), Rivers was pleased with his performance.
An interception and an untimely sack marred his initial outing but the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder was elated to finally get meaningful playing time. Ellis, who did not practice early in the week, is listed as questionable for Saturday's 3:30 p.m. contest with Georgia Tech.
"It was definitely a tough situation but it was the chance I've been waiting to get," Rivers said. "You want to get that shot. It was more exciting than overwhelming."
Welsh gave Rivers mixed reviews. The Cavaliers coach commended his inexperienced quarterback for his relief role but was disappointed he could not match Ellis' productivity.
Ellis has completed 119 of 205 passes for 1,411 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He was 7-for-14 for 44 yards against FSU.
"(Rivers) did all right," Welsh said on Wednesday. "He made a couple of mistakes. He let the 25-second clock run out, then took a sack that knocked us out of field-goal position."
Rivers' future at Virginia after this season is uncertain. The redshirt junior will receive his sociology degree in May then weigh his options and determine if he'll return for a fifth year of football.
In addition to his duties behind center, Rivers is also Virginia's long snapper. He didn't relinquish his snapping responsibilities even after assuming the No. 1 quarterback job and was not greeted kindly by the Seminoles' defensive front.
"I could definitely tell a change in their rush in the second half when they saw me on the line," Rivers said. Welsh said he will find another long snapper when Rivers is playing quarterback.
With his parents, David and Emily Rivers, in attendance, Rivers shook off the anxiety and completed a pass to tight end Casey Crawford on his second attempt of the night. Rivers hit Crawford while on the run.
Statistics won't reflect favorably on his performance but Rivers believes he can be productive if given additional opportunities.
"That's the way you picture plays working," he said of his pass to Crawford.
Jimmy DeButts at (706) 823-3221
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