Luke DeCock

November 9, 2013

DeCock: Not to be outdone on campus, Duke football produces a breakout star as well

Less than 24 hours after basketball stars Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker introduced themselves at Duke, redshirt freshman defensive back DeVon Edwards did the same on the football field with three touchdowns in a 38-20 win over NC State.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker introduced themselves to the world as the two newest Duke basketball stars. Duke football, as has become routine of late, would not be outdone.

Introducing DeVon Edwards, the redshirt freshman cornerback-turned-safety who nearly single-handedly turned around what would have been a devastating loss to N.C. State with a 100-yard kickoff return and two interception returns for touchdowns in a 38-20 win Saturday.

That’s a career, in one half.

Oddly enough, Edwards first made his name on the basketball court. That’s where Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder first noticed Edwards’ athletic gifts, playing one-on-one on campus over the summer. And that’s where Edwards intended to pursue a college career until his mother pointed out that at 5-foot-7 he might be better off playing football instead.

So the native of Covington, Ga., took his only football scholarship offer, from a basketball school – although Duke is quickly becoming ecumenical in that regard as the football team, at 7-2, still has a chance to win the ACC’s Coastal Division.

What strange days these are. In the middle of Friday’s basketball win over Davidson, Duke students chanted “Beat State!” while Mike Krzyzewski ended his postgame press conference with the same refrain. Duke complied Saturday, although only after an ineffective and wasteful Anthony Boone was swapped for Brandon Connette at quarterback, twice trailing N.C. State by a field goal in the second half.

Even after his third-quarter kickoff return answered the field goal that put N.C. State in the lead for the first time, Edwards was at serious risk of blaming himself for losing the game. N.C. State’s Quintin Payton beat Breon Borders deep down the left sideline and Edwards had the only chance of stopping him. He had Payton’s jersey in his fist, but Payton shed him near the goal line for an 80-yard catch.

He would more than make up for it, although N.C. State helped enable his redemption.

First, the Wolfpack wasted a timeout setting up for the kickoff return after a Connette touchdown run with 31/2 minutes left. Then, on the first play of a potential game-winning drive, Edwards first deflected a Brandon Mitchell pass, then gathered it in before running 25 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.

(Edwards’ second TD, a 45-yard scamper off a Pete Thomas pass this time, made him the first FBS player in a decade to score three non-offensive touchdowns in a game.)

Add those to the list of self-inflicted wounds for the Wolfpack this season, which now has to face the realistic possibility of going winless in the ACC for the first time since 1959.

“It hurts to lose when you put that much in,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. “These guys will continue to work and there is zero quit. I do feel like there was improvement made in a lot of areas but when you throw interceptions for touchdowns and give up a kickoff return for a touchdown, it’s tough.”

It must be especially galling when one player accounts for all of it. Someone asked Edwards if he’d watch SportsCenter later Saturday night. He said he doubted it. It was pointed out to him that he’d likely make an appearance.

“Think so?” Edwards said, his astonishment genuine.

ESPNU showed clips of Hood and Parker during the football broadcast Saturday but some clips of Edwards may sneak into the broadcast of Tuesday’s basketball game against Kansas – especially if ESPN’s College GameDay were to come to Durham for the Miami game next week, a longshot – but Edwards was certain of seeing himself Saturday night, over and over again.

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