By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State’s quarterback had one of the toughest games of his career.
The Seminoles’ most experienced running back was sidelined by a concussion.
And FSU’s biggest rival was within striking distance for an upset that might have ruined a dream season.
Hardly ideal circumstances to rely on a true freshman.
But, as he’s done time and again this season, Dalvin Cook rose to the occasion.
Cook, the running back from Miami, roughed up Florida’s defense for 144 yards on 24 carries to help Florida State to a 24-19 win over the Gators.
He pushed his team-high season total to 728 and, with at least two games left to play, could become FSU’s second 1,000-yard rusher in as many seasons.
“The trump card today was Dalvin Cook and the offensive line,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “A true freshman against a top-ranked defense. That defense is extremely good.”
Florida came into the contest with the nation’s 13th-ranked rush defense, which allowed an average of just 110.4 yards per game.
The Seminoles eclipsed that mark by the second quarter and finished with 181 yards.
FSU’s running renaissance came in handy after quarterback Jameis Winston threw three interceptions in the first quarter.
Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, struggled to get into a rhythm and ended up with just 125 yards on 12 of 24 passing.
So, with their quarterback struggling, the Seminoles opted to run – often right into the teeth of Florida’s defensive line.
“It was amazing,” left tackle Cameron Erving said. “Dalvin’s just progressively getting better and better as each week goes by. He’s a dynamic player.”
And he had to do it on his own for most of the second half after senior Karlos William suffered a concussion while blocking for a kick return.
Cook, a former five-star recruit who was once verbally committed to UF, carried the ball 14 times in the second half, 11 in the fourth quarter.
His effectiveness helped FSU hold the ball for a staggering 11:13 of the fourth quarter, which severely limited the Gators’ comeback opportunities.
“He can break tackles, he’s fast, he’s elusive,” Erving said. “There’s not enough positive things you can say about Dalvin. He’s been playing tremendously. It’s been very, very vital to our success.”
Cook might have cracked 200 yards, but a holding penalty nullified a 49-yard gain.
He then grabbed a screen pass on the next play and weaved 30 yards through the UF defense.
“The offensive line did a great job,” Winston said. “And Dalvin Cook did it again.”