But that's how it panned out against visiting Tulane, with the Blue Devils racking up a 48-27 victory. That's two wins in a row for those keeping track.
"In every phase, at one time or another, we came near being excellent," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "We were excellent on defense at times. We were excellent on offense at times."
Duke's defense didn't surrender a touchdown until the fourth quarter. Most important, the front seven for the Blue Devils was able to show a sturdiness that often has been lacking.
Winning streaks have been rare for this program. To make it three in a row, the Blue Devils will have to win at Florida International.
"We are just going to keep improving," running back Juwan Thompson said. "We are not worried about what other people say about our offense or (our) defensive schemes."
--The Blue Devils' reputation has a pass-happy offense that's prone to break downs or quick strikes took a twist late in the first half against Tulane. That's when Duke put together an 18-play drive covering 75 yards to score a touchdown. "Particularly in the first half and the second quarter there, we just dominated the football," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "We had that one drive that they're calling a timeout. We wore their youngsters down a little bit."
--Duke's 2-for-2 effort on converting fourth downs pushed the Blue Devils to 6 of 10 in those situations this season. They avoided more fourth-down situations by converting on 10 of 16 third downs in their most-recent game.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Jamison Crowder -- He made three receptions against Tulane, but he's becoming more valuable as a return specialist. He has shown breakaway capabilities that could cause opponents to rethink their approaches in applying coverages on special teams.
LOOKING GOOD: The Blue Devils' ability to punch the ball into the end zone on the ground was a big boost. They scored five rushing touchdowns against Tulane, with RB Juwan Thompson carrying the ball in twice. The Blue Devils accounted for 151 yards on the ground and did so without RB Desmond Scott, who's out with the injury and has been considered the top running back on the roster.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The Blue Devils could stand to do a better job protecting QB Sean Renfree. Though he didn't absorb a sack, he was battered around at times. "Sean got hit a little bit," coach David Cutcliffe said. "We've got to get him well. ... I'm proud of the fact that he won't give in to it."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's huge for us. It takes a lot of pressure off our defense." -- WR Conner Vernon on Duke's offense converting on all seven possessions that reached the red zone against Tulane.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--QB Sean Renfree had 278 passing yards against Tulane, but the bigger development might be that he rushed for two touchdowns. Renfree is often taken out of games to give the Blue Devils more options in the red zone. With QB Brandon Connette out with an injury, it gave Renfree a chance to take snaps in the red zone.
--K Will Snyderwine connected on a 40-yard field goal after missing his four previous attempts this year. He returned after missing the past game with an ankle injury. He also connected on four extra-point kicks (producing a school record with 64 consecutive successful extra-point kicks) before K Jeffrey Ijjas was called upon to take the two second-half extra-point kicks and a short fourth-quarter field goal.
--DL Charlie Hatcher had two sacks against Tulane. "That's one thing that we have been working on and focusing on before the season started, bumping up the total number of sacks," Hatcher said.
--DE Kenny Anunike, the junior leading the Blue Devils in sacks, left the Tulane game in the first half with a knee injury. It's a possible season-ending injury.
--S Matt Daniels led Duke with eight tackles against Tulane. He also led the team with three pass breakups and he has been among the national leaders in this category for the first month of the season.
--S August Campbell, a redshirt sophomore, notched his first career interception. It came on the final snap of the third quarter.