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Raynard Horne rewarded for trusting in kickoff return scheme

During the first two games of the season, Virginia special teams coordinator Anthony Poindexter got the sense that his kickoff returners weren't quite buying in to the message they were being preached. He saw them moving side to side, waiting to see if an opening would present itself.

"On kickoff returns you really can't do that," Poindexter said Monday. "You've just got to trust that the guys will get the block and run to that sweet spot, and if it's there, it's going to be a touchdown. And if it's not there, well, good luck. You might get your helmet knocked off. That's just how it goes."

Against Virginia Military Institute on Saturday, the coaching staff finally got through to fifth-year senior tailback Raynard Horne. Moments after VMI scored a touchdown to tie the score at 7 late in the first quarter, Horne ran straight through the lane he was told would be there and ended up with an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, Virginia's first since 2004.

Virginia Coach Mike London described Horne's kickoff return for a touchdown as a turning point in the game.

The kickoff return plan the Cavaliers used on that play was designed in recent weeks by tight ends coach Scott Wachenheim, who helps Poindexter with the special teams. Poindexter would not go into specifics about the details of the design, other than to note it was different than the kickoff return strategy the unit previously had used.

"The thing that happened with [Horne] this week, we asked him just to go fast," Poindexter said. "Man, just go fast. And hit the hole no matter what's there. It takes a lot of trust in your coach to say, 'Hey, all these guys coming down and just hit it right at this spot, and it might be there and it might not. But if it is there, you'll score.' "

When Horne returned to the sideline following his touchdown return, he approached Poindexter and said, "Coach, you were right," according to Poindexter's recollection.

After the game, Virginia Coach Mike London said Horne came up to him and said, "Coach, just like you said it was going to be."

To which London said he responded, "No duh, that's the whole thing about coaching and trying to get you in a position to make plays. If you do this, you've got a chance."

By Steve Yanda  | September 28, 2010; 11:53 AM ET
 
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