The last time the Blue Devils played Florida State, they stared at a bagel for almost 59 minutes. 

The Seminoles steamrolled Duke in the 2013 ACC championship, shutting the Blue Devils out until the final minute of garbage time in a 45-7 win. Jameis Winston and Devonta Freeman helped Florida State outgain Duke by nearly 350 yards to leave it in the dust. 

Now, after two straight ugly losses, Duke is in a similar pit at one of the worst possible times. 

Although the Seminoles have just one win, they are arguably the most talented team the Blue Devils have faced thus far. And Saturday at noon, Duke will match up against them at Wallace Wade Stadium near rock bottom, a game after Daniel Jones completed just 14-of-42 passing attempts and amid a two-game skid in which the Blue Devils have scored just two offensive touchdowns. 

“To be completely honest, I’m not completely sure what the hell is going on,” Duke tight end Daniel Helm said. “We need a spark obviously, so we’re working on making some plays. We need to protect the quarterback, and I’m a part of that as well.”

The Blue Devils (4-2, 1-2 in the ACC) will be looking deep into a passing game and offense that has been grounded almost completely for the past three weeks. During that span, Jones has completed just 45.3 percent of his passes, with little help from his offensive line or his receivers. 

But even heading into the meat of the conference schedule, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is not ready to panic. 

“I’ve been through a lot as a coach. I’ve had struggles where things just don’t click for periods of time. You don’t ever punch a bell that’s called an alarm,” Cutcliffe said. “You study the results and what’s leading to the results. I’m about work. An alarm says we have a problem. Work says we’re approaching everything we can to find a result to end the problem.”

The pass blocking was subpar against North Carolina and Miami—which combined for eight sacks against Jones—and when the quarterback has more time to look downfield, his receivers are struggling to get open.  But when the pass protection improved against Virginia, Jones seemed rattled by an early interception returned for a touchdown and went on to throw 10 consecutive incomplete passes. 

“I don’t think I was as balanced as I should have been at times,” Jones said. “I wasn’t as fundamentally sound as I need to be to throw the ball consistently and accurately. It’s certainly something I’ve been working on and am looking forward to correcting.” 

Jones and the offense were able to build some momentum late, marching all the way to Virginia's 30-yard line on five straight completions with a chance to tie the game in the closing minutes. But a sack forced Duke to face fourth-and-long and turn the ball over on downs.  

Along the way, Jones connected with highly-touted redshirt-freshman receiver Scott Bracey twice for 26 yards, perhaps a sign of increased usage for a wideout that had caught just three passes before Saturday. 

"We were able to move the ball there for a little bit, but weren't able to finish. We were able to gain some confidence from that,” Jones said. “I have plenty of chemistry and trust that I've developed with Scott through practice, with as much as we’ve done not on game day and things that not everyone sees. But bigger than that, we weren’t able to finish, and that’s something we need to focus on and improve on.” 

It won’t be getting any easier for the Blue Devils, who will face a stout Florida State defense that ranks No. 15 in the nation in defensive efficiency. However, the Seminoles (1-3, 1-2) have been more susceptible to the pass than the run, tying for eighth in the ACC in yards allowed per pass attempt. 

Nevertheless, it will likely be the toughest defense Duke has faced so far, with nine returning starters from a unit that was No. 12 in the nation in efficiency last season. 

“I'm extremely excited,” Jones said. “It gives us an opportunity to show what we can do. I know the whole team feels that way. It's a tremendous opportunity for us."

While the Blue Devils’ offense has struggled, their defense was much more efficient and adept at stopping big plays against Virginia, allowing just one passing play of 25 yards or more after allowing seven such plays against Miami. They will face a Florida State offense that has been forced to start a true freshman, James Blackman, after Heisman Trophy contender Deondre Francois went down with a season-ending knee injury. 

Since losing Francois and dropping their season opener to No. 1 Alabama, the preseason No. 3 Seminoles have sputtered, falling in close games to N.C. State and then-No. 13 Miami. But Blackman has steadily improved, completing 60.7 percent of his passes behind two feature backs, Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers, that have averaged a combined 5.3 yards per carry. Duke will counter with the No. 7 rushing defense in the country. 

Certainly, with the pit Duke is in, topping the Seminoles will be no easy task. But if anyone were the man to weather the storm, it would be Cutcliffe. 

“We’ve had times where I’ve probably wanted to panic,” Cutcliffe said. “I’ve been shut out as coordinator at the University of Tennessee. I’ve been part of a staff there that hit 0-6. A guy got on top of a billboard and wouldn’t come down until we won. I thought we were going to break up a family. You’re driving to work and see a guy roosting on a billboard. You just work.”

Hank Tucker and Mitchell Gladstone contributed reporting.