Long-snapper Turned QB Delivers On Time
Nov. 7, 1999
By HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – David Rivers’ first three quarters as Virginia’squarterback were about what might be expected of a player whose only job inalmost three years of college football was snapping the ball on the punt team.
His last three quarters were more than enough to make it all worthwhile.
“Amazing,” coach George Welsh said after Rivers overcame a slow start andrallied Virginia to a 45-38 victory against then-No. 7 Georgia Tech. “The kiddid good.”
Rivers had thrown 15 passes in his career when he was tabbed to start inplace of the injured Dan Ellis against the Yellow Jackets on Saturday. Hiscounterpart was Joe Hamilton, a leading Heisman Trophy hopeful and the nation’stop-rated quarterback.
Considering the stakes and expectations, it was no contest.
Bolstered by the 213-yard, two-touchdown running of Thomas Jones and adefense that stiffened when it needed to most, Rivers led the Cavaliers backfrom an early 17-0 deficit with three touchdown passes and surprised even hiscoach and his teammates.
Only a week ago, Rivers’ duties as long-snapper were his only ones on thefield. He lost that job when Ellis’ recovery from a concussion made him thestarting quarterback.
“He had a lot asked of him, to go out there and match the leading HeismanTrophy candidate and probably the best quarterback in the nation play forplay,” tackle Noel LaMontagne said. “It’s just incredible for him to performso well under those conditions.”
Rivers finished 18-for-30 for 228 yards. He never lost his cool, histeammates said, and seemed to grow in confidence each time the Cavaliers movedthe chains.
“I felt like once we started moving the ball on them, that was all weneeded to do,” said the Augusta, Ga., native, who was born and raised a devoutYellow Jackets fan.
Georgia Tech also helped make it a game with three crucial mistakes.
The Yellow Jackets scored on four of their first five possessions, but lostthe ball at the Virginia 6 when Hamilton’s pitch missed Dez White and ByronThweatt recovered.
Later, Marvious Hester dropped an interception deep in Georgia Techterritory on the drive when Virginia went ahead to stay, and then KellyCampbell let what would have been a 68-yard touchdown pass from Hamilton go offhis fingertips on the next series.
Three plays after the drop, with 10:10 remaining, the Yellow Jackets punted.
“They did what they had to do,” Yellow Jackets coach George O’Leary saidof the Cavaliers, who kept alive their chance of winning seven games for the13th straight season. Only Florida State, Michigan and Nebraska have streaksthat long.
Georgia Tech, meantime, dropped to 13th in the AP poll released Sunday andsaw its chances for an at-large bid to the Bowl Championship Series all butevaporate.
“It’s the luck of the draw, man, the luck of the draw,” Hamilton said.