For the past week, the question was “What’s wrong with Dalvin Cook?”
The Florida State running back provided his answer on Saturday. Cook ran for a career-best 267 rushing yards and two touchdowns and the Seminoles ran for 478 yards – one shy of a school record – as No. 13 FSU bounced back with a 55-35 win over South Florida.
“I don’t know why it was a question,” Cook said. “People get caught up in having the stats. I just think we did a better job this week of running the ball, getting me in open space and beating guys one on one.”
From the first time he carried the ball, it was vintage Cook. The junior ran off left tackle on FSU’s first offensive play, going 75 yards for a touchdown. He had 185 rushing yards at halftime as the Seminoles built a 38-14 lead.
Cook ran 28 times and averaged 9.5 yards per carry in the second-best day by an FSU rusher (Greg Allen had 322 rushing yards in 1981 vs. Western Carolina). It was the best day for Cook since he accumulated 266 rushing yards against USF in 2015.
The running game was one of the main reasons that Florida State bounced back from one of the most lopsided defeats in school history. FSU was sluggish a week ago, failing to generate much of anything on offense in a 63-20 loss at Louisville. Cook managed 54 yards on 16 carries against the Cardinals and was not able to get in gear. And coming into Saturday’s game, he had 228 rushing yards on the season.
“I didn’t see anything wrong with him,” backup running back Jacques Patrick said. “He’s the same guy from last year. He hit 23 miles per hour on a run.”
Cook ran so often, and so effectively, that he needed a breather. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was willing to give his star a break, especially when the results were just as good as Florida State had a 200-yard rusher and a 100-yard rusher for the first time since 1985.
Patrick had 124 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Even senior fullback Freddie Stevenson got into the action with a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs. Even though Deondre Francois struggled through the air (11 of 19 for 169 yards and a touchdown), he ran 10 times for 75 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown.
Patrick looked physical, punishing on runs up the middle, but he also did well on runs outside. While plenty of what Florida State does on offense revolves around Cook, it also could be important to occasionally rest him and utilize a big back such as the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Patrick.
“We ran well,” Patrick said. “The O-line opened up for us. There’s still a lot to improve on. This is just a stepping stone for us.”
Florida State was dominant in running for 7.6 yards per carry. Coming into the game, the Seminoles had averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Once they got to the edge vs. South Florida, they were off to the races.
“They had a good game,” USF linebacker Auggie Sanchez said. “On film, you see Cook trying to get to the edge a lot, and that’s what we were trying to take away. They kept getting it to the edge … You’re not going to win a game when they have (nearly) 500 yards rushing.”