It’s been 19 years since Duke last had a winning season, and while this year’s success has been a team effort, the Blue Devils can thank safety DeVon Edwards for making the biggest contribution in getting that elusive win No. 7.
Edwards scored three times in Saturday’s 38-20 victory over NC State, turning a close game into an easy win with a monster fourth quarter.
For the second consecutive game, Duke’s offense struggled throughout much of the game, but the defense set the tone. Edwards, a redshirt freshman, was at the forefront.
Trailing 13-10, Edwards returned an NC State kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
The Wolfpack answered with an 80-yard touchdown of their own midway through the fourth quarter to regain a 20-17 lead, but it was short-lived. After Brandon Connette scored on a 5-yard run to regain the lead for Duke, Edwards took over the game on defense.
Edwards intercepted Brandon Mitchell’s first pass of the next drive, returning it 25 yards for a score. After the kickoff, Pete Thomas took over at quarterback for the Wolfpack and repeated Mitchell’s mistake. Thomas’ first pass was again picked off by Edwards, who returned that one 45 yards for a touchdown. In the span of 26 seconds on the game clock, Duke scored 21 points.
Edwards became the first FBS player in 10 years to record three non-offensive touchdowns in a game. His 100-yard kickoff return is tied for the second-longest in Duke’s history, and his 218 total yards is the second-best performance by a Blue Devils freshman.
The staggeringly impressive defensive performance was the latest example of a new formula for Duke, whose offense has mustered just 519 yards in its last two games, but won both games thanks to the defense.
The Blue Devils have eight takeaways in their last two games, and their defense and special teams have accounted for five touchdowns already this season. After allowing a whopping 127 points in a dismal three-game stretch midseason, Duke’s rejuvenated defense has allowed just 59 points total in its last four.
Edwards, meanwhile, is the only ACC player with two interception returns for touchdowns this season.