A STAR IS BORN
Duke can deliver a punch. More importantly, Duke can take a punch and counter.
Nobody’s fist was bigger than Blue Devil safety DeVon Edwards’ when N.C. State showed up at Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday.
“Mr. November!” Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder called him. “DeVon Edwards pretty much took over the game.”
Duke won 38-20, and the Blue Devils for the first time since 1994 reached seven wins, guaranteeing Duke’s first winning season since that 1994 squad coached by Fred Goldsmith went 8-4.
Edwards returned two interceptions for touchdowns and scored on a 100-yard kickoff return.
Those interceptions were counterpunches, and pretty good ones, too, that had him primed for ESPN’s highlight reels.
“You think so?” Edwards deadpanned.
Edwards, though, was socked before he got those two picks, absorbing a fourth-quarter shot from N.C. State wide receiver Quintin Payton, who pushed him aside and continued to the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown that gave the Wolfpack a 20-17 lead with 6:37 left in the game.
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Payton had burned freshman cornerback Breon Borders before slipping Edwards’ tackle.
“I knew I made a mistake,” Edwards said.
Edwards said his teammates told him to go back out there on the field and be an athlete. That’s what he did.
“We continue to find a way to make critical plays at critical times,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said.
Late in the second quarter, N.C. State threatened to get in the end zone, driving the ball to Duke’s 24-yard line. Duke’s defense got a necessary stop that prompted a 41-yard field-goal attempt from Wolfpack kicker Niklas Sade.
Sade ricocheted it off the left upright.
Things were breaking Duke’s way, although the Blue Devils’ ensuing driving ended with Boone throwing his second interception.
No harm, though. Duke still had a 10-0 shutout going at halftime.
In the third quarter, N.C. State quarterback Pete Thomas got together with running back Matt Dayes for a 44-yard pass play, advancing the ball to Duke’s 21.
N.C. State started howling, again. The Wolfpack put together an 83-yard drive when third-and-4 showed up.
Duke linebacker Kelby Brown put an end to N.C. State’s touchdown thoughts, sacking Thomas for a 9-yard loss.
The Wolfpack had to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Sade.
That turned out to be a critical kick, because Duke’s next drive stalled, and N.C. State’s Rashard Smith returned Will Monday’s 48-yard punt 73-yards for a game-tying touchdown.
Sade gave N.C. State a 13-10 lead with a 24-yard field goal in the third quarter that was set up when Boone delivered his third interception of the game, this time to D.J. Green, who was hanging out underneath at his linebacker spot.
Back came Duke, snatching the lead when Edwards went from goal line to goal line, the second-longest kickoff return for a touchdown in school history.
When Duke got the ball back, it wasn’t in Boone’s hands. He was on the sideline. Backup quarterback Brandon Connette was under center, and he ripped into the Wolfpack’s defense on a keeper for 20 yards.
But Connette coughed up the ball during the course of his shimmying for extra yardage. N.C. State safety Hakim Jones forced the fumble and recovered it.
The Wolfpack wound up punting.
In the fourth quarter, Duke took a 24-20 lead on a five-yard rushing touchdown by Connette.
But it was anybody’s game with 3:31 left on the clock.
Then Edwards erupted.
Brandon Mitchell was in at quarterback for N.C. State. Under heavy duress from a Duke defensive lineman, Mitchell heaved a passed that Edwards tipped toward the sky. The ball fell into Edwards’ hands, and he was in the end zone 25 yards later.
On N.C. State’s next offensive possession, Thomas was at quarterback and tossed a pass into Duke’s secondary. Edwards showed up, again, scoring on a fantastic runback that covered 45 yards.
Edwards had scored twice in 16 seconds and Duke scored three times in 26 seconds — including Connette’s run — to stun the Wolfpack.
“That’s something you can’t coach, just intercepting a pass and using your natural talents to go score,” Crowder said. “It takes a load off of the offense and the defense, just having that explosion like that in such a quick time span.”
Cutcliffe said he’s been lecturing the Blue Devils on the importance of finishing games.
Edwards apparently embraced the message, making several strong statements in that regard, punctuating them with exclamation points.
“He had a magic night,” Cutcliffe said. “It may never happen quite like that again. But it was a magic night.”
|DUKE 38, NC STATE 20|
Duke_Boone 4 run (Martin kick), 11:07.
Duke_FG Martin 36, 8:14.
NCSt_FG Sade 29, 8:46.
NCSt_R.Smith 73 punt return (Sade kick), 7:17.
NCSt_FG Sade 24, 3:58.
Duke_D.Edwards 100 kickoff return (Martin kick), 3:45.
NCSt_Payton 80 pass from Mitchell (Sade kick), 6:37.
Duke_Connette 5 run (Martin kick), 3:31.
Duke_D.Edwards 25 interception return (Martin kick), 3:21.
Duke_D.Edwards 45 interception return (Martin kick), 3:05.
|Time of Possession||33:12||26:48|
RUSHING_NC State, Thornton 26-103, Mitchell 14-49, Dayes 3-11,
Creecy 1-7, Thomas 4-(minus 6). Duke, Connette 8-40, Powell 9-35,
Thompson 2-32, Duncan 4-15, Snead 2-4, Team 1-(minus 1),
Boone 5-(minus 2).
PASSING_NC State, Mitchell 7-18-2-148, Thomas 6-15-1-100. Duke,
Boone 13-21-3-139, Connette 7-13-0-59.
RECEIVING_NC State, Payton 3-104, R.Smith 2-37, Copeland 2-21,
Grinnage 2-15, Dayes 1-44, Ramos 1-10, Thornton 1-10, Cherry 1-7. Duke,
Crowder 7-134, Barnes 2-16, McCaffrey 2-14, Deaver 2-13, Duncan 2-9,
Braxton 2-4, Powell 1-4, Blakeney 1-2, Smith 1-2.