Baylor-Duke recap: Bears continue making mental mistakes after 15 games of Matt Rhule

By Russell Peables

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Baylor put forth its worst performance of the season so far and fell 40-27 to Duke on its home field on Saturday.

The Bears fell to 2-1 after the loss, and still only have one win over a Power Five opponent since Oct. 15, 2016. Both of the last two wins were over Kansas. Baylor is 15 games into Matt Rhule's tenure, and the only FBS wins are over UTSA and Kansas.

Here are three takeaways from the disappointing performance.

Huge mistakes

Baylor just couldn’t get out of his own way. The Bears had a pair of kick off returns that returners bizarrely fielded instead of allowing a touchback. Baylor also had a pair of field goals blocked in the first quarter that would have drastically changed the trajectory of the game.

All of Duke’s touchdowns in 2017 were 35 yards or longer. All but one of the touchdowns against Baylor on Saturday were 28 yards or longer. If Baylor can’t finish tackles at the second level, it won’t win any games. That's continued to be an issue through two seasons, and there's no end in sight. 

Strange quarterback situation

Baylor coach Matt Rhule did a strange job of balancing the two quarterbacks in his third game this season. Sophomore Charlie Brewer started the game for Baylor, and completed 14-of-26 passes for 175 yards. Jalan McClendon appeared to get hurt in the first half, but came back to throw for 95 yards, a touchdown and a pick-six.

The Bears are really struggling without a clear direction under center. McClendon played well in the first game, and Brewer played well in the second. At this point, rotating quarterbacks is a waste of time. Rhule has to make a decision and stick with it.

Tough path to six

Baylor really needed this win to have a shot to win six games and earn a trip to a bowl game. The Blue Devils lost starting quarterback Daniel Jones before the game, and lost two of their best secondary players later. Everything was set up to pull off a critical victory. It was a tremendous letdown.

Now, Baylor faces off next week against a Kansas team that is absolutely streaking after winning a pair of games against FBS teams to open the year. After that, it’s eight games against opponents that Baylor will probably be underdogs against. There will be progress in 2018, but this sure isn’t reaching expectations.

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