The Penn football team visits Columbia and senior roving linebacker jason Bivens, who put a hurt on Jason McGee in '98. Astute Penn football fans will remember Jason Bivens. Jason McGee sure does. McGee, the former Quakers tailback, got to know Bivens a little more intimately than he would have liked last year in Penn's 20-0 victory over Columbia. When quarterback Matt Rader hung a pass in the flat intended for McGee, Bivens charged in and laid McGee out with a hit so wicked it landed him on SportsCenter. "I was just sitting out there," Bivens said. "[The defensive plan was] for me to be guarding the flat and looking for any backs coming out of the backfield. I had my eyes on him the entire play, and once he came out there I just reacted." Reaction is the name of Bivens' game at Columbia, where the senior captain starts at the rover position, a fourth linebacker in the Lions' unique 4-4 defensive front. Basically, Bivens must be a jack-of-all-trades at rover, expected to stuff the run as well as cover wide receivers. Throughout his whole career Bivens has been versatile, garnering all-league recognition at both quarterback and defensive back at St. Mary's College High School in Richmond, Calif. When he arrived at Columbia, he jumped into the role of running back. As a freshman, he was Columbia's fourth-leading rusher, and as a sophomore he set school records for rushes in a season and rushes in a game. Bivens even got the chance to play some quarterback last season while growing into his linebacking duties. "He had two offensive touchdowns [at quarterback]," Columbia coach Ray Tellier said. "We're not doing that now but he ran a little bit of an option last year. Early in the year he had a couple of short runs in a wishbone set." But this season Bivens has steadily evolved into the rover Tellier envisioned. "I get a good mix of dealing with receivers and tight ends and backs in all different sorts of places on the field," Bivens said. "Generally most teams like to split me out by putting a wide receiver to my side of the field, so I'm more of a defensive back/linebacker." With eight men stacked in the box and only three defensive backs to look after the passing game, the ability of the rover is essential to Columbia's success. "On any outside run toward him, he's the primary run supporter," Tellier said. "And he also has to be a good enough athlete -- like a defensive back and having corner skills -- to be able to play man-to-man on good wide receivers." Bivens has been up to the task thus far, recording 39 tackles (30 solo), two sacks and four forced fumbles last year. For someone who's only 5'8" and 185 pounds, Bivens certainly plays big. But, as he will tell you, size doesn't matter -- it's how you use it. "When [big players] are going up against a smaller guy, people who aren't truly good players will take it for granted that their size is going to give them an advantage," Bivens said. "So I tend to use that in my thinking and say I need to be overly aggressive and always try to challenge myself to play up to my full capabilities, because I can't allow myself to fall below that, being that I'm already at somewhat of a disadvantage due to my size." Bivens chose Columbia without knowing much about the Ivy League, the East Coast or New York City. But he said that Columbia's strong academics in the "hub of the world" were alluring, but he did not know quite what to expect from the Ancient Eight. "Typically you hear a lot of things that demean Ivy League football," Bivens said. "But I think the only thing that seems to diminish or to take away from Ivy League football is just the lack of scholarships.? I wouldn't say support from the academic insitution, but financially and administratively I don't think the institutions without scholarship athletes tend to give as much credit to athletics as they need to." At Columbia, Bivens has made a name for himself by doing just about everything short of kicking punts. The second team All-Ivy pick admitted that it was by design. "One of the reasons I chose Columbia is because it wasn't a good football team when I first got here and I didn't really feel like I wanted to go somewhere where I was just going to be a beast," Bivens said. "I wanted to go somewhere and have a significant impact." From just about everywhere on the field, this jack-of-all-trades has made an impact -- on Columbia and on its opponents.Comments powered by Disqus
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