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NCSU's Rivers Closes In On ACC Passing Record

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Philip Rivers has been nearly perfect two weeks into the season. Now comes his spotlight game against the defending national champions in the race for the Heisman Trophy.

After 38 career starts, the senior quarterback, the consummate team player, the husband and father, isn't backing away from the individual challenge of trying to crack the Ohio State defense.

"I am at the point now where I've played so many games that I can be honest in the fact that I see the personal opportunities," Rivers said Wednesday. "That can have a positive impact on the team and me personally.

"It doesn't add any pressure. It's what you play for. It's one of those things that you dream about when you're little. When you actually get the chance, you don't want to downplay it."

Rivers will enter Saturday's showdown in Columbus, Ohio, on a roll and already on the mind of Heisman voters.

He's completed 64 of 79 passes (81 percent) and thrown six touchdowns in N.C. State's first two games -- a win against Western Carolina and a loss to Wake Forest.

His 753 passing yards this season have left him 94 shy of the Atlantic Coast Conference's all-time mark of 9,839, set by Chris Weinke from 1997-00.

The odds are close to 100 percent Rivers will set the ACC record this weekend. He's never thrown for fewer than 129 yards in any college game.

"It would be hard for somebody to show me a smarter, sharper quarterback than the kid they got up there," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said.

The 6-5, 235-pound QB has started every game of his career, been the MVP of two bowl games and can count two wins over Florida State and one over Notre Dame on his resume.

"He's the man, he's the guy that makes the team go," N.C. State coach Chuck Amato said. "He loves to shoulder it. What better person can you have to shoulder things than Philip Rivers? If he continues on this pace, he will deserve everything he gets.

"He even came up with a new pass the other day -- a flick," Amato said. "Flick your Bic; he did it. Does it surprise any of us? No. He works the pocket better than anybody."

Rivers learned the game from his father, a high-school coach in Alabama and now Raleigh, and he worked with offensive guru Norm Chow his first season with the Wolfpack.

While Rivers has gained knowledge from a lot of different fronts, he i svery much a self-made player. N.C. State coaches say no one pays more attention to detail than Rivers.

This fall, Rivers watched a tape of his first few practices at N.C. State in 2000, trying to learn anything he could about his quarterback evolution.

All he could do was laugh about his first few steps as a true freshman.

"Man, I wasn't very good," he said. "I felt I was ready, but I wasn't even close to how prepared I am week-to-week. Now I get to concentrate on the little things."

And now he is feared by opponents, who have to come up with game plans to stop Rivers in N.C. State's wide-open offense.

"He's got a little bit of a swagger when he takes the field -- and not in a bad way," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "Some kids are so cocky that it's a negative, but when he comes on the field, you just get the sense that he's running the show, and everybody on that team feels good about what is going to happen.

"The wheels are never off as long as he's on the field."

There is little chance Rivers will get rattled in front of more than 100,000 fans at Ohio Stadium this weekend. One of his best qualities is avoiding turnovers. He's been picked off just 29 times in 1,306 career attempts.

"In the past, an interception would be driving me crazy," Rivers said, "Now I can forget it and keep playing.

"My dad never cared if I threw it away. He used to say: 'Throw it up to your mom.' One of the things you have to do as a quarterback is cut your losses. Sometimes a throw away can be a great play."

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