LAWRENCE, Kan. — Duke coach David Cutcliffe knew his team needed a few big plays to defeat No. 22 Kansas.
But after the opening drive, only the Jayhawks erupted for the game-deciding plays.
Duke (1-2) gave up 20 consecutive points in just over a six-minute period spanning halftime as it fell to Kansas (3-0) 44-16 Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
"They're a team that will lead the country in explosiveness," Cutcliffe said. "We've got to have big plays and we didn't, which is why we didn't score."
The Jayhawks outscored the Blue Devils 30-9 from the second quarter on in the contest. Duke also allowed Kansas to rack up plays covering 34, 48 and 45 yards on the three scoring drives, highlighted by Jayhawks defensive end Max Onyegbule's 48-yard touchdown off an interception.
Onyegbule's interception turned what could have been a momentum-changing drive for Duke into an effective stamp on the victory for Kansas. Had the Blue Devils scored, they would have trailed by just one possession but instead found themselves down by 20 against a team that had not given up more than 10 points this season.
"I saw the passing lane and it looked open," quarterback Thaddeus Lewis said. "The defensive lineman dropped into coverage, and I didn't see him at all. It was a great call on their part."
Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing finished with three touchdowns on 28-of-41 attempts and 338 yards, eluding Duke's pass rush with a nice mix of sidesteps and spins to keep the plays alive.
The Blue Devils, on the other hand, had a great deal of trouble getting anything going on offense, as consistent pressure from Kansas' defensive line made deep throws difficult. When Lewis and Sean Renfree did get a deep ball off, it was often inaccurate and overthrown from having to backpedal against the onslaught of defensive linemen.
Duke had a couple of opportunities after Kansas led 27-7. On the drive after Onyegbule's interception, Lewis drove the offense down to the Jayhawks' 18-yard line and had two prime opportunities to score, but overthrew open receivers on second and third down.
Kansas scored again, and Cutcliffe inserted Renfree at quarterback. The redshirt freshman drove Duke to Kansas' 32-yard line, but heavy pressure on a fourth down attempt forced a bad throw and a turnover on downs.
The game did have a promising start for the Blue Devils though. After stopping Kansas at Duke's 34-yard line, Lewis hit wideout Austin Kelly to his right on a bubble screen. Kelly cut across the field and with great blocking from his other receivers, covering 66 yards.
Lewis then scrambled up the gut of the defense on the next play for a 21-yard touchdown to give Duke its only lead of the day with 9:46 remaining in the first quarter.
But that was it for the Blue Devils' touchdown output until the fourth quarter. By then, Duke's lack of explosion had put them down by more than 21 points and out of the game.
No. 22 Kansas 44, Duke 16
Duke--Lewis 21 run (Maggio kick), 9:46. Kan--Briscoe 14 pass from Reesing (Branstetter kick), 7:10.
Kan--Sharp 7 pass from Reesing (kick blocked), 4:59. Kan--Meier 6 pass from Reesing (Branstetter kick), 1:16.
Kan--Onyegbule 48 interception return (Branstetter kick), 12:58. Duke--FG Snyderwine 37, 11:21. Kan--Opurum 4 run (Branstetter kick), 7:30. Kan--FG Branstetter 31, :23.
Duke--Varner 11 pass from Renfree (pass failed), 9:22. Kan--Opurum 3 run (Branstetter kick), 2:14.
Time of Possession
RUSHING--Duke, Hollingsworth 9-38, Kurunwune 8-28, Lewis 8-14, Renfree 4-8, Boyette 4-7. Kansas, Opurum 17-70, Reesing 8-51, Pick 1-18, Sharp 5-13.
PASSING--Duke, Lewis 16-27-2-184, Renfree 14-23-0-115. Kansas, Reesing 28-41-0-338.
RECEIVING--Duke, Williams 8-75, Kelly 5-98, Varner 3-40, Boyette 2-23, Bell 2-15, Trezvant 2-7, Kurunwune 2-1, Hollingsworth 2-0, Parker 1-16, Huffman 1-12, B.King 1-6, Watkins 1-6. Kansas, Meier 8-64, Briscoe 6-117, McDougald 6-37, J.Wilson 4-63, Opurum 3-50, Sharp 1-7.