Lewis leads Duke past NC State|Throws for 459 yards, 5 TDs

Published 10:54 pm Sunday, October 11, 2009

AP Sports Writer

RALEIGH — As Thad Lewis walked to the sideline with victory in hand, Duke coach David Cutcliffe greeted his quarterback with a handshake and a pat on the shoulder pads.
‘‘It was the best game that I’ve had a quarterback play,’’ he said he told Lewis.
That’s high praise coming from Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator at Tennessee and Eli Manning’s coach at Mississippi. Then again, anyone who watched Lewis’ dazzling one-man show that helped the Blue Devils beat North Carolina State 49-28 on Saturday probably wouldn’t argue, either.
The senior threw for career-highs of 459 yards and five touchdowns. He set Duke’s career touchdown passing record and a single-game record with 40 completions. He also ran for a score as part of his gamelong torture of the Wolfpack’s overmatched defense.
Yes, overmatched. The word usually applies to Duke when talking about football. Yet Lewis — a four-year starter who until now has seen his big passing days typically go for naught — was unstoppable as the Blue Devils (3-3, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) snapped an 11-game losing streak against their instate rival and earned their first league road win in almost six years.
‘‘He was really special,’’ Cutcliffe said. ‘‘We handled their pressure, we handled their zone, and when you do that and your quarterback is as poised as Thad was tonight, good things happen.
‘‘You know how they call that ’in the zone?’ He was in the zone.’’
It helped that Lewis and the Blue Devils were prepared for anything the Wolfpack (3-3, 0-2) might try.
‘‘The game felt good,’’ Lewis said. ‘‘Coming into this game, they showed us exactly what we saw on film. … It was just go out there and play because I knew the plays we had called was fixed to beat the coverage that they were playing out there tonight.’’
Lewis’ 40-for-50 passing day could have been even better had his receivers not dropped about four passes in the opening quarter. Still, they spent most of the game running free through the Wolfpack’s defense while the offensive line surrendered just two sacks against the ACC’s top sack unit.
Donovan Varner had 154 yards receiving while Conner Vernon had 10 catches and was one of five different players to catch a TD pass. The defense did its part too, hanging in after a rough start against quarterback Russell Wilson to deny the Wolfpack an offensive TD after halftime.
Duke finished with 502 total yards, converted 13 of 19 third downs and never trailed in front of N.C. State’s stunned home crowd. It was Duke’s first ACC road win since beating North Carolina to close the 2003 regular season, ending a 20-game losing streak.
‘‘We knew what they were going to do, every down, every third-and-short, every scenario,’’ said Austin Kelly, who caught the go-ahead touchdown pass late in the third quarter.
On the other sideline, the Wolfpack defense had no clue how to stop Lewis, who guided the Blue Devils to touchdowns on their first three drives.
‘‘Duke came out and went right at us,’’ N.C. State defensive end Willie Young said. ‘‘This isn’t the same Duke team of two, three, seven years ago.’’
With the game tied at 28, Lewis directed a 10-play drive that ended with his 8-yard scoring pass to Kelly with 3:41 left in the third. Then the Blue Devils caught a huge break when a Blue Devil punt bounced off blocker Justin Byers and Duke recovered at N.C. State’s 11-yard line.
Three plays later, Lewis connected with Vernon for a 5-yard touchdown that pushed the lead to 42-28 with 11:02 left. And when the Blue Devils stuffed Toney Baker on a fourth-and-1 with 6:05 left, they could feel that this game really would be different from all those other league losses.
Things only got worse for N.C. State, which started the game with three straight touchdown drives, only to play the final 5 minutes or so in front of a virtually empty Carter-Finley Stadium.
The low point — aside from that miserable defensive performance — came when the Wolfpack botched another punt return in the final minutes in the same fashion, this time with the ball bouncing off the leg of blocker Owen Spencer and rolling into the end zone, where Duke recovered for another touchdown with 3:07 left.
Wilson ran and threw for a touchdown for N.C. State, while Baker ran for 73 yards and a score. T.J. Graham added a 93-yard kickoff return as the Wolfpack’s only second-half score.
‘‘We need to take more responsibility as a team,’’ Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien said. ‘‘We were outcoached and outplayed.’’
DUKE 49, N.C. STATE 28
Duke 14 7 14 14 — 49
N.C. State 14 7 7 0 — 28
First Quarter
Duke—Huffman 2 pass from Lewis (Snyderwine kick), 9:42.
NCSt—R.Wilson 10 run (Czajkowski kick), 6:15.
Duke—Lewis 2 run (Snyderwine kick), :30.
NCSt—Spencer 63 pass from R.Wilson (Czajkowski kick), :14.
Second Quarter
Duke—Boyette 7 pass from Lewis (Snyderwine kick), 11:45.
NCSt—Baker 9 run (Czajkowski kick), 8:22.
Third Quarter
Duke—Parker 6 pass from Lewis (Snyderwine kick), 8:17.
NCSt—Graham 93 kickoff return (Czajkowski kick), 8:05.
Duke—Kelly 8 pass from Lewis (Snyderwine kick), 3:41.
Fourth Quarter
Duke—Vernon 5 pass from Lewis (Snyderwine kick), 11:02.
Duke—Banks recovered fumble in end zone (Snyderwine kick), 3:07.
Duke NCSt
First downs 25 17
Rushes-yards 35-43 23-142
Passing 459 196
Comp-Att-Int 40-50-0 16-30-2
Return Yards 4 11
Punts-Avg. 4-41.8 4-39.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-2
Penalties-Yards 4-30 0-0
Time of Possession 40:24 19:36
RUSHING—Duke, Boyette 9-29, D.Scott 8-13, Lewis 12-8, Williams 1-1, Team 5-(minus 8). N.C. State, Baker 9-73, R.Wilson 11-58, Eugene 3-11.
PASSING—Duke, Lewis 40-50-0-459. N.C. State, R.Wilson 15-27-1-172, Glennon 1-2-1-24, Team 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Duke, Vernon 10-86, Varner 7-154, Huffman 5-49, Kelly 5-44, D.Scott 5-37, Boyette 4-18, Williams 1-43, B.King 1-24, Parker 1-6, Hollingsworth 1-(minus 2). N.C. State, Bryan 4-41, Spencer 2-71, Ja.Williams 2-32, Baker 2-22, Bowens 2-17, Eugene 2-8, Graham 2-5.