Edwards’ three touchdown returns lift Duke past N.C. State

Nov. 09, 2013 @ 10:56 PM

In the fourth quarter, DeVon Edwards remembered the best advice given to him.

It came after he failed to bring down a receiver 13 yards from completing an 80-yard score, putting Duke behind with less than seven minutes left. The Blue Devils drove for a go-ahead score, then Edwards returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the final four minutes, shocking ACC rival N.C. State, 38-20, Saturday evening.

“They told me everybody gets beat deep,” Edwards said of all his Duke coaches. “The only thing is, what are you going to do on the next play?”

When the Wolfpack took its first lead, 13-10 with 3:58 to go in the third quarter, Edwards returned the kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

Three returns. Three touchdowns.

The ACC record for interception return touchdowns in a season is three. The 5-foot-9 redshirt freshman, playing safety for the first time this season, had two in as many snaps.

“Once I got the ball, I knew I had to do something with it,” Edwards said of the first pick-six, a deflected shovel pass he took 25 yards into the horseshoe end zone of Wallace Wade Stadium.

On State’s next snap, he was playing more of a center field position, weaving and racing 45 yards back to the end zone with Pete Thomas’ errant throw.

The Wolfpack (3-6, 0-6 ACC) scored just three points on Duke’s four turnovers.

“DeVon made some impressive plays,” said Duke quarterback Brandon Connette.

He did so especially after failing to bring down Quintin Payton on an 80-yard scoring pass from Brandon Mitchell.

Connette, a junior reserve quarterback, drove Duke 79 yards in eight plays, going the final 5 yards on a third-down play-action call. The drive and points, Duke’s first sustained offensive movement since the first quarter, pushed the Devils ahead 24-20 with 3:31 to go.

Twenty-six seconds later, Duke led by 18.“That’s when you know you have a team that is ready to compete,” Connette added.

Duke climbed to a startling 7-2, its best start to a season since opening 7-0 in 1994. The Blue Devils, at 3-2 in the Coastal Division and with hobbled Miami coming to Durham next, are very much alive for a shot at the ACC Championship in Charlotte.

Among the mostly blue-clad 32,000 in attendance were shouts of “We want FSU” as time expired.

Edwards didn’t bite when baited about the possibility. His humility and gratitude for a solid day on the field showed.

But he did allow a little, saying, “We’re not done yet. We’re going for the ACC championship.”

Three touchdown returns in a game doesn’t happen often, if ever. Seven wins in modern-day Duke football is unique, too.

So why not? The route to the title game in the Queen City continues with the Hurricanes.

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.