In their first two games, the Blue Devils were dominant offensively, scoring 101 points. Despite putting up 34 more in a win Saturday, the offense’s performance left a bit of a sour taste behind.

Baylor—the same team that yielded 48 points to FCS opponent Liberty just two weeks ago—managed to find ways to confuse Blue Devil quarterback Daniel Jones at the line of scrimmage, never letting him get comfortable under center. Duke’s defense gave the offense plenty of chances to put the game out of reach, but the Blue Devils struggled to convert time and time again.

Jones threw for a season-low 184 yards and a red-zone interception despite attempting 35 passes, and could not get going on the ground either after leading the team in rushing yards against Northwestern last week. The offensive line did not perform up to its standards, too, as Jones was sacked five different times and was under pressure throughout the game.

“They did so many different things we hadn’t seen defensively. I thought that was difficult for Daniel and just in general,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen people show as many different fronts as they showed in one ballgame.”

Jones seemed particularly confused on a costly play at the end of the second quarter. On 3rd-and-goal from Baylor’s 17-yard line, Jones fired the ball directly to Bears defensive back Henry Black, who easily corralled the redshirt sophomore’s off-target pass. At the time, Duke was only on top 14-7 and was looking to gain some momentum heading into the locker room. But Jones misread the coverage on receiver Quay Chambers, and instead of giving the special teams unit a chance to put points on the board before halftime, he gave the ball right back to Baylor.

It was not all on Jones, though. 

The play prior to Jones’ interception, the Charlotte, N.C., native ran the ball in from two yards out, and it seemed as though the Blue Devils were about to pull away. But two offensive linemen were whistled for an illegal chop block, setting Duke back 15 yards and wiping six points off the board.

The offensive line also broke down a couple of times with the Blue Devils in the red zone, with Jones either being chased out of the pocket and forced to toss the ball out of bounds or take a costly drive-stopping sack, as Duke scored on just two of its four red zone trips. After a nearly impeccable performance the week prior against the Wildcats just like Jones, the offensive line seemed overwhelmed against a defensive unit that had managed just four sacks in its first two contests. 

“They had a lot of different looks,” Jones said. “You just have to give credit to their speed and athleticism on defense, and that’s something we haven’t seen as much.”

The first play of the game provided a sign of what was to come for the Blue Devil passing attack. On the first play from scrimmage. Jones threaded a perfectly placed deep ball to junior wide receiver T.J. Rahming, but the ball squirted out of Rahming’s hands as he went to the ground.

Unfortunately for Duke, Rahming’s drop was only one of a number of miscues by the Blue Devil pass catchers. Speedy wideout Chris Taylor was left all alone on a third-down wheel pattern, but ran his route into the sideline and stepped out of bounds before securing the ball, all but eliminating a touchdown with green grass in front of him. Starting tight end Daniel Helm and wide receiver Quay Chambers also dropped passes, making it even tougher on Jones to find a rhythm.

Especially in the second half, when a number of Baylor turnovers gave Duke’s offense the chance to put the game away, the Blue Devils stalled as the passing game continued to struggle. Duke went only 4-of-18 on third down despite having an average distance of five yards, and Jones went just 4-of-8 for 13 yards in those situations, hurting the Blue Devils particularly in the red zone.

“The [defense was] putting us in great situations to put points on the board and we didn’t convert all the time,” Jones said.

If not for the running game—which contributed three long touchdown runs—and an opportunistic defense that forced four turnovers, perhaps Duke would not be sporting its first 3-0 record since 2014. 

The Blue Devils are happy they have a full week to prepare before playing Tobacco Road rival North Carolina next Saturday, as they will seek to rediscover their magic in the passing game from the Northwestern game.

“Offensively, the turnovers and not converting in the red zone, and an untimely penalty or an untimely drop [hurt us]. That can’t be who we are,” Cutcliffe said. “I want to make my notes and make corrections because I know I’ll have a lot of fun with this one.”