Move to safety pays off for Rivas, who has three picks in Mavericks’ win

Dustin Rivas intercepts a pass Saturday in Colorado Mesa’s 47-33 victory. Rivas, who moved to safety this season for the Mavs, had three picks against Chadron State.

Hey, this safety gig is all right.

When Dustin Rivas moved from cornerback to safety this season, he was thankful he’d repped every secondary position throughout his career.

Saturday, the junior showed practice pays dividends, intercepting three passes and returning one for a touchdown in the No. 25 Mavericks’ 47-33 RMAC victory over Chadron State.

“A lot of credit goes to the coaches. We were able to see a lot of tendencies with the quarterback and that allowed me to free-flow and see with my eyes and then kind of go with the tendencies and be able to flow faster than usual,” Rivas said. “I like it back there.”

Despite having the hat trick of picks, Rivas was still shaking his head over the one play he knew he should have broken, a punt return in the first quarter.

“I’m a little disappointed,” he said with a slight grin. “I feel like I should have scored on at least one of them. It’s something I can go back and look at film and see some corrections. I missed (following) a few blocks I could have run off of.”

He caught the Eagles’ first punt on the 27, made a couple of moves, ran out of one of his shoes and was dragged down at the 47.

Two plays later, Virnel Moon caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Sean Rubalcaba.

On Chadron’s ensuing series, Rivas was at his best, stoning Max Gray on a little out pass for a 1-yard gain on first down from Mesa’s 41. Two plays later, he intercepted TD Stein at the 1, but the play was waved off because Mesa jumped offsides.

No matter.

On first down from the 17, the Eagles sent three receivers into the end zone. Rivas came out with the ball, sprinting in front of his man in the back of the end zone.

“Dustin can make plays, and that’s what we wanted,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “Today that showed. He made a couple of great plays on things and as the year goes on he’ll continue to make more plays. He does a great job of reading the quarterback.”

He broke on a route and intercepted Matt Vinson at midfield and returned it two yards for his second interception, with 8:56 to play in the third quarter. Mesa kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive for a 27-13 lead.

His third interception was the big one. Right after Dorian Williams scored on a 1-yard run, giving CMU a 37-20 lead, Rivas intercepted Vinson on first down and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown and a 44-20 lead.

“It was one of those tip plays,” Rivas said. “Our DBs are all talented enough; I was just lucky enough to have it bounce my way. I know any of our DBs could have scored. I just got lucky, it popped up and I was able to score on it.”

Jackson Burrell had another interception called off by penalty, and dropped another sure interception on the sideline as Mesa’s defense gave up some yardage, but not a lot of points until the game was well in hand.

“This was a good way to lead into (this week’s game at Colorado Mines) with the interceptions,” Rivas said, “because we’ll get a lot of balls in the air and we need to make some plays.”


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