Duffy Shines as Wolfpack's Next Man Up

Brett Friedlander

For the third straight game, a member of NC State's secondary was ejected because of a targeting infraction.

And for the third straight game, the next man up got the job done.

When nickel Joshua Pierre-Louis went out against Pittsburgh, converted cornerback Taiyon Palmer stepped in filled the void. When safety Tanner Ingle was disqualified against Virginia last week, it was another corner -- true freshman Devan Boykin -- that came up big.

Boykin was also thrown into a prominent role in Saturday against Duke after Jakeen Harris was sent to the showers early. But he got plenty of help from an even more unexpected source.

With Ingle injured and both Rakeim Ashford and Khalid Martin out for the season, coach Dave Doeren had no choice but to turn to former walkon Isaac Duffy.

A 5-foot-9, 187-pound redshirt sophomore, Duffy had never been on the field for a snap from scrimmage during his 16-game Wolfpack career. But you'd never know it the special teams ace performed in helping his team to a 31-20 victory at Carter-Finley Stadium.

"I was so proud of Isaac Duffy, a walk-on safety that’s earned a scholarship here, the way he came in and played," Doeren said. "He played well.

"As far as stepping up, I couldn’t be prouder. It was Ashford early in the season. Then it was Devan Boykin, and now it’s Duffy. You saw Pierre-Louis do it. It’s just like a revolving door back there, but they're getting results. That’s a credit to (coordinator Tony) Gibson and the defensive staff, coach (Joe) DeForest and coach (Freddie) Aughtry-Lindsay. Those guys have had to play a lot of guys. Duffy was ready. You’ve got to give that man a lot of credit."

It's doubtful that Duffy appeared on any of Duke's scouting reports coming into the game, which is why the Blue Devils immediately tried to pick on him as soon as he came into the game.

He never flinched, though.

Expecting the attention and rising to the occasion, Duffy finished the game with four tackles and led the team with two pass breakups while playing 68 snaps.

"We work hard. We all work," he said. "In practice, we practice like it was a game. When I got in there, I knew they were going to come to me, but I was ready. 

"We're always ready for the opportunity. When they started coming at me, it was just like practice. It was be ready, know your technique, trust in yourself and make plays."

There's a difference between being ready and actually going into a game and making a significant contribution.

And Duffy said it was gratifying to do what he did when called upon Saturday. But as happy as he was about his performance, he said it was even more special for somebody else.

"It meant a lot, not really to me but to my mom because me and her have been through so much," he said. "She’s been there for me. She’s supported me through my walkon days with her having to pay for school and everything, to when I got my scholarship to every game she’s there for me cheering for me on special teams like I’m really on defense. 

"When I got in the game, I knew I couldn’t hesitate. I knew I had to ball out for her because all the times she’s been watching me and telling me to keep working hard. I was ready for it. I was excited for her."

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