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Senior running back Raynard Horne and the Virginia Cavaliers are coming off a heartbreaking 55-48 setback at Duke and are on the eve of hosting 2010’s final home game of season. The Baltimore, Md., native recently sat down with to discuss the Duke loss, growing up in the Shadows of the University of Maryland, the upcoming ‘Senior Day’ festivities and making the move to kick returner.

Question: After suffering a heartbreaking loss to Duke, what can the team work on in practice this week to get ready for Maryland Saturday?
Horne: We didn’t win, so there’s a lot of things we can work on to get better. I really can’t speak too much for the defense, but on offense, we can try to take care of the ball a little bit better and try to finish.

Question: You are currently ranked third in the ACC, averaging 25.9 yards per return. Did you ever anticipate having this kind of success going into season?
Horne: I was hoping for it, but I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s funny that I’m doing pretty well at kick returning because it was kind of a late thing. I didn’t practice it too much during camp until the end, so I’m glad I’m doing well at it.

Question: You mentioned it was a “late thing.” Does that mean training camp was the first time you ever tried returning kicks?
Horne: I did it in high school. When I came here my first year, I did it as a back up and did it a lot in practice so I have some background.

Question: The past few seasons though, you have mostly played tailback and occasionally on defense. How did you get to be the team’s primary kick returner this year?
Horne: The coaches found out how fast I was. They weren’t listening to me when I was telling them I was fast-they thought I was joking-but then they saw it for themselves. I was always joking about it-‘Put me back there in kick return, put me in kick return.’ One day I came in, and [Coach Poindexter] was like, ‘I’ve got to talk to you. I’m going to try you back there at kick return for a little while.’ It’s been going good since. It clicked.

Question: What was that like to return a kickoff for a touchdown like you did against VMI?
Horne: It was crazy. It was also my first touchdown, so it was special to me in that way, too. I was thinking, ‘just don’t get caught, don’t get caught, don’t get caught.’

Question: Being a successful returner requires speed, but it also involves trusting your blockers. Was that difficult to get used to for you?
Horne: When I was first back there it was because I didn’t know what to expect because it had been so long since I returned kicks. It was difficult because everything was moving so fast. Since I’ve done it more though and gotten better at it, trusting blocks comes easier now because we practice it so much. When I trust my teammates to make their blocks, it’s like them trusting me to do my job.

Question: Now that you have established yourself as a returner, more and more teams seem to be kicking the ball away from you or placing kickoffs deeper into the end zone. Is that frustrating?
Horne: It’s a little frustrating because you only get a certain amount of kick returns a game. You’ve got to take advantage of your opportunities. When they kick away, you don’t get that chance. They’re not kicking away from me to a lesser person though, because Perry Jones is back there also and he’s very talented. I figure if it’s not me, Perry can do it.

Question: You will be returning kicks against an opponent from your home state Saturday, when Maryland pays a visit to Scott Stadium. As a Baltimore native, did you ever give any consideration to becoming a Terp?
Horne: They recruited me to play safety there. I gave it some thoughts. Of course I wanted to be close to home and everything, but ultimately, I thought Virginia would be a better place for me.

Question: Who recruited you from Virginia?
Horne: Coach Poindexter recruited me. Dex was by far one of the coolest coaches-you could call on him about anything. He’d be honest with you, so that was good. My family liked him and that made the decision easier.

Question: Saturday’s game against Maryland will also mark the last home game of the year. Does it feel like the season has gone by quickly?
Horne: The season’s gone by so fast. You look up now, and it’s the last home game of the season. It’s like, ‘where did the season go?’

Question: You will be honored before the game as part of the annual ‘Senior Day’ festivities. I understand you took part in the ceremony last year before deciding to return for a fifth year. Even though it will be the second time around for you, are you still excited for Saturday?
Horne: A little bit. I don’t know if people really remember me from last year, but it’s still a good experience.

Question: Now that your Cavalier career is coming to a close, do you have a fondest memory from your playing days?
Horne: I feel like I have a lot of fond memories. I’m having a good time – I’m having a nice college experience. One of the good things about it is being able to hang out with all the guys and just how everyone gets along. Everyone’s so nice and friendly here. That’s one thing I’ll always remember.

Question: What do you take away from your time at Virginia?
Horne: I’ve learned a lot of life lessons here-a lot of things I didn’t expect to learn while I was in college. Football is a lot of responsibility. I feel like I learned a lot and I take a lot away from this program.

Question: Let’s wrap things up with the usual “quick hit” questions. Favorite uniform combination?
Horne: Orange tops, blue bottoms.

Question: Favorite baseball hat you own?
Horne: I’ve got to take it back to Baltimore with the Baltimore Orioles.

Question: Pizza toppings?
Horne: Double meat, pepperoni.

Question: Favorite video game?
Horne: Madden.

Question: Role model growing up?
Horne: Kobe Bryant.

Question: Favorite Thanksgiving food?
Horne: Turkey-just turkey.

Question: Favorite board game when you were young?
Horne: We didn’t play a lot of board games, but we played a lot of card games. A lot of family time with UNO.

Question: Finally, what is the first thing you would do if you won the lottery?
Horne: Buy a new car, probably a Range Rover.

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