SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Dalvin Cook made quick work of Florida State’s career rushing record, and the Seminoles did the same to the Syracuse Orange.
With a 41-yard gain on his second carry of the day, Cook reached 3,987 rushing yards for his career and surpassed the mark held for 20 years by FSU Hall of Famer Warrick Dunn (3,959 yards).
Cook, however, was just getting started. He would go on to run for 225 yards and four touchdowns – three in the third quarter – as the No. 17 Seminoles raced past Syracuse for a 45-14 victory at the Carrier Dome.
FSU improved to 8-3 and finishes its ACC campaign 5-3. The Seminoles host No. 23 Florida, a 16-10 winner over No. 16 LSU earlier in the day, in next week’s regular-season finale (8 p.m., ABC).
“It’s a blessing to be where I’m at,” Cook said. “I’m just proud of my guys for putting me in a position to be here. I give all credit to those guys and my coaches for putting me in position to make plays. I give all credit to them. I just think they did a great job of getting the opportunity to be at the top of this list. So I’m just thankful.”
No surprise that Cook took a humble tone. His teammates, however, were a little more effusive in their praise.
“He’s the greatest,” senior defensive end DeMarcus Walker said. “The greatest running back.”
“It’s awesome being part of a historic running back like Dalvin Cook,” junior center Alec Eberle said. “Having a guy like that who gives his all, 24-7, he’s always there for us, he’s a leader on the team.”
It was a big day for the number four.
Not only did Cook – who wears jersey No. 4 – become FSU’s career rushing leader, but he also:
“To say you’re the leading rusher at a school that’s not a bad football school is pretty dadgum good,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said with a smile. “To be in the same sentence with some of the guys that have played here, it’s a great honor.
“But he definitely is deserving.”
Even another No. 4, sophomore cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, got in on the action with a second-quarter interception in the end zone. That interception, McFadden’s nation-leading eighth of the season, led to a Cook score that gave the Seminoles a 21-0 advantage.
McFadden is now No. 2 on FSU’s list for interceptions in a single season. He needs four more to catch Terrell Buckley, who had 12 in 1991.
“I thought that was very important in the game,” Fisher said.
FSU started fast and scored on its first two possessions. And any inkling of a Syracuse comeback was later snuffed out at the start of the third quarter when, with the Seminoles leading 21-7, quarterback Deondre Francois marched the Seminoles 75 yards in six plays for a touchdown that made it 28-7.
That drive provided a quick answer after the Orange scored on a Hail Mary on the final drive of the first half. It also marked the first of three FSU touchdowns in the third quarter, and it gave the Seminoles a 42-14 advantage at the start of the final period.
“That was very important, to get (back) on top and continue to push the ball, run the ball effectively and try to throw off play-action,” Francois said. “(We wanted to) get a quick score and get the momentum.”
Although Cook’s record-setting day will rightfully grab the headlines, there were plenty of other Seminoles to take turns in the spotlight on Saturday.
Francois threw for 315 yards and touchdowns on each of FSU’s first two drives, and each of the six Seminoles to catch a pass on Saturday had at least 37 receiving yards.
Sophomore Auden Tate led the way with 77 yards on five catches, but junior Travis Rudolph (5-64, 1 TD) and senior Kermit Whitfield (4-59) weren’t too far behind.
And a former FSU receiver – Ermon Lane – grabbed his first career interception since moving to safety earlier this year.
FSU continued its late-season trend of stout defensive efforts, limiting Syracuse’s hurry-up offense to just 233 total yards and 3.2 yards per play.
That was thanks in large part to a relentless pass rush that sacked Syracuse quarterback Zack Mahoney eight times, a season high for FSU and the most since recording eight against BYU in 2010.
Freshman Brian Burns had a career-high 2.5 sacks, while Walker added a pair. Josh Sweat, Matthew Thomas and Ro’Derrick Hoskins each had one.
“We just took advantage of every opportunity we had,” Walker said. “They threw the ball a lot, so we had a lot of opportunities to get back there.”
All told, the Seminoles doubled up Syracuse in both total yardage (654-233) and yards per play (8.6-3.2) despite running just four more plays than the Orange.
“The defense, I thought, was outstanding on the day,” Fisher said. “For a team that goes that fast and plays that tempo that quick … the defense did a heck of a job.”