The 6-foot-5, 250-pound junior defensive end from Ellenwood, Ga., said it makes a difference for him when the foe is the Georgia Bulldogs.
Stepping Up Early
"When the homestate school comes in, it always puts a little more fire in you," said Rivers, who made his first start of the season last Saturday against Vanderbilt. "You get a little hyped up. Every game is important. But I know people who go there. I know people who play there. It's always bragging rights when you go back home."
Rivers went to Cedar Grove High School near Atlanta. He knows a lot of Georgia Bulldogs, from players to students.
"I know some players on the (football) team, some on the track team," he said. "Half of my high school went to UGA. Some of them are coming up for the game."
It's a game Ole Miss needs to win. The Rebels are at home. Georgia sports the same record as Ole Miss – 1-2 overall and 0-1 in Southeastern Conference play.
Rivers had two tackles against the Commodores, including a tackle for loss. He also had two quarterback hurries. He said he can do better.
"Obviously not as good as I wanted," he said, "but I got some good feedback from the coaches. Just one thing that was overall for the defense, and that is we all have to tackle better."
Rivers said that has been a real emphasis this week in preparation for the Bulldogs.
"It's everything, all of it," said Rivers, who played in 10 games with five starts in 2010. "We just gotta tackle better. Make sure we do everything better in practice and take that to the games. We started off (Tuesday) with our tackling circuit, worked on some guys moving, making sure you know how to breakdown. Just making sure you're in good position."
Rivers said the defense is getting better, but that doesn't matter if there's a loss at the end of the day.
"Any time we don't come up with a ‘W' that means we didn't do enough right," he said. "The way Coach (Tyrone) Nix puts it to us, it's our defense vs. their defense. Whichever one gets the most turnovers wins, and obviously we didn't win the turnover ratio (at Vandy)."
Rivers said the Rebels have turned that loss loose and are focused on Georgia.
"On the defensive side of the ball, we know that once we finished watching that film, it was over. It's done," he said. "You can't dwell on a loss like that, because it will affect your season.
"Georgia has some big guys (on the offensive front). Their tackles are pretty big," Rivers continued. "They're going to try to run around to the outside. They're going to try to spread you out. It will be pounding football, and that's what we like."
Freshman offensive lineman Aaron Morris may draw his first start Saturday against the Bulldogs. That's the way things seem to be shaping up at practice this week.
Morris is a 6-5, 325-pounder who appears to have moved ahead of Patrick Junen at left guard.
"I'm just working hard, trying to get in there with them," said the Callaway High product from Jackson. "I'm just trying to earn my place so I can stay with them."
Morris said each day is important to his progress.
"I'm getting better," he said. "It's just different terminology, but I feel like I'm doing good with it. I'm just watching film and getting better.
"I've been working at left guard for a couple of weeks, then moved to right guard, and now I'm back at left guard. I feel comfortable overall. I'm just going to get back in the film room and learn my plays and get ‘em down pat so I can know exactly what to do."
If Morris does start Saturday, he said he knows he will be pumped up.
"I know I'm going to be excited, but I'm going to stay calm so I won't mess up," he said. "I'm just going to listen to the plays and do what I've gotta do."
One of the guys that's been there for him to encourage him has actually been Junen.
"He's been helping me out," Morris said. "I ask him about plays and stuff, and he tells me exactly how to do it. So I just thank him for that."
Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said Morris, who worked with the ones in practice Tuesday, continues to improve.
"He did good," Nutt said. "There's some learning curves there, but he did really well today. He's got it physically, just keep studying and learn the assignments. He's an outstanding athlete and very mature physically for his age.
"We haven't given up on Patrick Junen by any means," Nutt continued. "We're just trying to find the right group, the right chemistry, and all those things."
Stepping Up Early