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Minnifield's interceptions atone for special teams gaffe against VMI

Junior cornerback Chase Minnifield returned Virginia Military Institute's first punt 20 yards Saturday, which qualified as his longest of the season thus far. He ended the day with a pair of interceptions, which boosted his team-leading total to three. The only thing that put a damper on Minnifield's day was what transpired in between those two accomplishments.

His second punt return attempt did not go nearly as smoothly as the first. With just more than eight minutes remaining in the first quarter, Minnifield lost track of the ball while trying to gauge how far away the members of VMI's punt cover unit were so he would know whether to signal for a fair catch. When he looked back up into the air, the ball "just dropped on me."

Minnifield touched the ball as it fell to the ground, but could not make a clean catch. VMI recovered the ensuing fumble and began a drive on the Virginia 19-yard-line. That drive ended in a missed 30-yard field goal.

"It was just bad concentration on my part," Minnifield said. "I probably shouldn't have tried to stick my hand out there to try to catch it."

Minnifield said from that point forward he concentrated on remaining focused and not letting that one play dictate how the rest of his afternoon would transpire.

Less than a minute into the second quarter, Minnifield recognized the setup of a VMI pass play he had seen the previous week while watching film. On third and eight, he jumped the route of the receiver he was covering and snatched an interception.

His second interception came on VMI's next offensive series. On third and seven, VMI quarterback Adam Morgan -- one of three signal callers VMI used throughout the game -- threw a pass intended for a receiver running a crossing pattern. Minnifield tipped the ball into the air, dove and then caught it as he landed near the sideline.

Minnifield called his second interception "a luck play, a play that the Lord was looking out for me."

By Steve Yanda  | September 27, 2010; 8:31 AM ET
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