With just over 6 minutes left, NC State wide receiver Quintin Payton caught an 80 yard pass from quarterback Brandon Mitchell for a go-ahead score and it looked like the Wolfpack would sneak away with a victory over Duke. Fortunately that wasn’t the case.
As Lee Corso says, not so fast my friend. Brandon Connette, who came into the game in the second half for struggling starter Anthony Boone, helped orchestrate an 80 yard drive and punctuated it with a 5-yard touchdown run that would put the Blue Devils on top for good. Duke went on to win 38-20 .
“We proved, Duke proved why you play four quarters and not three. Very thankful of that,” head coach David Cutcliffe said.
Believe it or not the Connette drive and touchdown wasn’t even the highlight of the game.
Duke got three touchdowns from safety DeVon Edwards who proved to be the the story of the game. Edwards would have made the highlight reels with his 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown late in the third quarter alone but helped solidify the win with not one but two interceptions taken back for touchdowns on consecutive possessions a mere 16 seconds apart.
“Leon Wright and DeVon Edwards are side by side in the NCAA record book as the only players in the history of the NCAA to ever run interceptions back, back to back plays for touchdowns. How awesome is that,” Cutcliffe said. “And they are very similar, humble, hardworking people. I’m extremely happy for DeVon.”
The win moves the Blue Devils to 7-2, ensuring the first winning season since 1994. At 3-2 in the ACC Coastal Division, a Clemson victory over Georgia Tech would put Duke in the drivers seat to potential win the division. Though Cutcliffe isn’t quite ready to start talking about winning divisions just yet, he knew this team would be the team to put Duke over the top.
“We’ve been talking since August. We knew this team would be the team to break what’s been a long drought,” Cutcliffe said. “We are a team that has to play as a team. Our defense consistently stood out time after time. We have found a way to make critical plays at critical times.”
Edwards’ plays certainly qualify as critical plays because prior to his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the first kickoff return for a touchdown for the Blue Devils since 2007, Duke looked dead in the water.
Trailing 13-10 the touchdown put Duke back on top 20-13. Then late in the second quarter the Payton touchdown appeared to be a back breaker but the Blue Devils offense, which hadn’t done much except seemingly turn the ball over (3 interceptions and 1 fumble), finally responded.
Connette came in, in relief of Anthony Boone who for the second consecutive game struggled throwing three interceptions. Connette, after fumbling on his first series, was able to bounce back and lead the Duke offense down the field with the help of a big run out of senior running back Juwan Thompson.
Connette was able to finish off the drive with the touchdown, the first of what would be three scores for the Blue Devils in 26 seconds. The turnaround was nothing short of incredible considering how the Blue Devils appeared to be set to end their four game winning streak. Instead the victory marks their fifth straight and serves notice to the rest of the Coastal Division that a shot at the ACC title may have to go through Durham.