By Tim Linafelt (@Time_Linafelt)
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A Florida State backfield that featured senior Karlos Williams and third-year sophomore Mario Pender was supposed to allow highly regarded freshman Dalvin Cook to ease his way into collegiate action.
But injuries to Williams and Pender thrust Cook into the spotlight Saturday at Syracuse. And Cook, a former five-star prospect from Miami, proved to be more than up to the task during FSU’s 38-20 win over the Orange.
With Williams in sweatpants after suffering a high-ankle sprain last week and Pender sidelined in the second quarter after twisting his ankle as well, Cook shouldered the load and ran for 122 yards and a touchdown.
“He played tremendous,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He’s evolved into a heck of a player.”
Cook’s 23 carries matched the most by an FSU running back this season. His 250 yards this season are second behind Williams (353) for the team lead, and he’s averaging 5.3 yards per attempt.
And Cook could be in line for more action against Notre Dame next week. Pender, who returned briefly against Syracuse, said he is fine, but Williams’ status is still uncertain.
Forcing turnovers was a hallmark of Florida State’s 2013 defense. The Seminoles led the nation with 26 interceptions and also recovered nine fumbles.
After a somewhat slow start in the takeaway department this year, FSU appears to be heating up. The Seminoles forced three Orange turnovers Saturday – all them interceptions – and have eight turnovers in their last three games.
FSU has taken the ball away at least once in 24 of its last 25 contests and has produced 46 takeaways across its last 20 games.
The Seminoles had 45 turnovers in the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined (27 games).
“It’s something that we work hard on in practice,” defensive end Mario Edwards said. “Stripping the ball, being where you need to be, ripping the ball out, picking the ball. It’s basically (that) what we’ve done in practice is carrying over to the field.”
College Gameday heads back to Tallahassee
ESPN’s popular “College Gameday” pregame show will visit Tallahassee on Oct. 18 in advance of FSU’s meeting with Notre Dame.
It will mark the third time this season that “Gameday” has featured FSU, and the second time in less than a month that the show originates in Tallahassee.
The pregame show’s visit is historically appropriate – ESPN first took “Gameday” on the road road in 1993, when it broadcast live from South Bend, Ind., in advance of No. 1 FSU’s visit to No. 2 Notre Dame.
Mississippi State takes over No. 1
On the heels of a 38-23 victory over No. 2 Auburn, the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who just five weeks ago were unranked, jumped to No. 1 in the Amway Coaches Poll and the Associated Press Poll.
The Bulldogs have beaten three teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of their games.
Florida State narrowly missed out on retaining the top spot in the Coaches Poll. The Seminoles’ 1,489 total points were just one behind MSU’s 1,490. And FSU garnered 31 first-place votes to the Bulldogs’ 26.
FSU received 12 first-place votes from the AP.