BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech receiver Tayvion Robinson fell short of the lofty expectations the coaching staff had for him as the starting punt returner.
That doesn’t look like it will be a problem this year.
Robinson reenergized the Hokies’ sideline on Saturday in a 21-10 win over Richmond with his first career punt return for the touchdown.The 60-yard return came shortly after the Spiders tied the game up 7-7.
"We take special teams very seriously,” Robinson said. “We coach that hard. Any time we make a play on special teams, it can always change the momentum of the game. They encourage us all on going out there and going as hard as possible so we can create those big plays and switch momentum.”
Robinson had a good feeling about the return the minute the ball left punter Aaron Trusler’s foot. Trusler did a roll out punt — he took a few steps to his right up towards the line of scrimmage before letting it go — but he kicked it away from his coverage team and didn’t get much hang time.
“It was going to be a weird look,” Robinson said.
Robinson managed to go untouched up the middle of the field before cutting it back to the sidelines for Tech’s first punt return for a touchdown since Greg Stroman brought one back against North Carolina in 2017.
Tech coaches and players rushed to celebrate with Robinson since they knew how much he worked to make the moment happen. Robinson lost the starting return job last season after committing multiple turnovers and petitioned the staff to give him another chance before spring camp opened.
Fuente and special teams coach James Shibest both liked what they heard.
“He just lost his confidence,” Shibest said, before the season. “I go back to his freshman year. It’s like he didn’t know any better. Then you start to figure out, boy, if something bad happens, how much pressure there is in that job just fielding the ball...and he lost his confidence.”
Robinson’s focus and determination in practice helped him get back that fearless attitude he displayed once again on Saturday.
“Just getting a return kind of let everybody know I'm not the same person I was last year,” Robinson said. “I'm a lot better. My preparation showed at the end of the day and it was exciting getting in the box."
Robinson has 10 returns for 188 yards this season and his 18.8 yard return average will likely vault him into the top five in the FBS. He came into the game averaging 11.5 yards per return, which was ranked No. 20 in the country.
Rutgers receiver Aron Cruickshank was leading the nation coming into the week with 23.5 yards per return.