DURHAM — On a day when offense and steady quarterback play was hard to find, Duke defensive back DeVon Edwards put up the most points of all.
Edwards, a redshirt freshman, returned a kickoff 100 yards and two interceptions for scores, and thanks to that effort, Duke beat N.C. State 38-20. He joins former Duke cornerback Leon Wright as the only two players in NCAA history to turn back-to-back passes into pick-sixes.
The Wolfpack (3-6, 0-6 ACC) had the lead with 6:37 left in the game.
The Blue Devils went through two quarterbacks in the second half Anthony Boone was benched after throwing his third interception of the game (seventh in the past two contests) in favor of Brandon Connette. Initially, the change didnt generate a spark, as the Duke second-half drive chart read punt, punt, interception (Boone), lost fumble (Connette), punt, punt, punt.
With Duke stalling, N.C. State took advantage with a quick strike, an 80-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Mitchell to Quintin Payton, and the Wolfpack momentarily had a 20-17 lead in the fourth quarter. Payton beat Breon Borders in coverage and shook off Edwards on the way to the end zone.
They always told me, everyone gets beat deep, Edwards said of the coaching staffs advice to the defensive backs. The only thing is, what are you going to do the next play?
Before Edwards put together his own highlight reel, Duke (7-2, 3-2) took the lead for good. The offense finally put together a sustained drive, with Connette hitting Jamison Crowder for back-to-back gains of 18 yards. Juwan Thompson, who moved to linebacker prior to the win at Virginia Tech, returned to running back and ran 31 yards through a large hole in the line. At that point, Duke had first-and-goal at the N.C. State 8-yard line, and Connette ran it in from 5 yards out to give Duke a 24-20 lead with 3:31 remaining.
Thats when Edwards took over.
On his next play after getting beat for the touchdown, he intercepted a Mitchell pass, jumping and tipping it up in the air before corralling it . Edwards took the ball 24 yards to the end zone, giving Duke a 31-20 advantage.
Pete Thomas entered on the Wolfpacks next series, continuing a game-long rotation, and his first pass was intercepted by Edwards at the N.C. State 45-yard line and taken to the house. That cemented the late-game blowout.
Jeremy Cash added a third fourth-quarter interception on the next Wolfpack drive, again courtesy of Mitchell.
The game came down to the fourth quarter, N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren said. Obviously Duke beat us in the fourth quarter today.
Before the interceptions, Edwards 100-yard punt return nullified the Wolfpacks first lead of the game at 13-10. After a 24-yard field goal from Nick Sade, Edwards fielded the kickoff in his end zone and took it the length of the field.
Duke had a 10-0 lead at halftime, thanks to a 75-yard pass from Boone to Crowder and a Wolfpack turnover on downs deep in its own territory.
On fourth and 1 from N.C. States 26-yard line, Thomas was under center, but Dave Doeren called for a handoff to Shadrach Thornton up the middle. That was stopped for no gain by David Helton and Jonathan Woodruff. The Ross Martin field goal came three plays and eight yards later.
The Boone-to-Crowder touchdown was the only play for either team that went for over 20 yards in the first half. N.C. States quarterback duo of Thomas and Mitchell finished the first half 4-of-13 for 41 yards. The Blue Devils finished the first half with 161 yards, 86 yards without the long pass play from Boone to Crowder.
Boone, who struggled against Virginia Tech in Dukes last outing, finished 13 of 21 for 139 yards, one rushing touchdown and three interceptions, all of which came on errant throws over the middle. He was benched after the third interception, which went to D.J. Green with just over seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Wolfpack, though, converted Dukes four turnovers into just three points.
No one dressed in blue at Wallace Wade, however, was focused on the offensive struggles. Instead, as the full student section emptied out onto the concourse, they chanted We want Florida State! in reference to the Blue Devils chances to win the Coastal Division and advance to the ACC championship game.
When told after the game, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe laughed.
Hold your horses, he said. I love them. Thank goodness for their energy, their youth, their enthusiasm and their inexperience. .