TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is off to a slow start by his standards and the junior’s lack of big runs and 100-yard games has raised a few questions.
Cook has just one carry over 20 yards and is averaging 87 rushing yards per game heading into second-ranked Florida State’s showdown Saturday at No. 10 Louisville,
Last season Cook already had 422 yards and six carries of 20-plus yards. Reasons for his slow start have ranged to lack of contact during preseason scrimmages, offseason shoulder surgery or being slower after adding 10 pounds during the offseason.
Cook said it is none of the above.
It is more of a case of taking what the defense is giving him without forcing things.
“No matter the down and distance it is, stay ahead of the chains. I think I’ve done a great job of that this season, just taking what they give me,” Cook said. “Those long runs are going to come. I had to put that in my head, don’t force the game.”
Coach Jimbo Fisher did think that Cook was a little rusty in the Sept. 5 opener against then-No. 11 Mississippi but was happier with his ground game in last Saturday’s win over Charleston Southern.
“Just because your numbers aren’t the same doesn’t mean you’re not playing as well,” Fisher said. “I like his progress where he’s at right now.”
Cook had only 11 carries against Charleston Southern but did average 7.6 yards per carry. He also had two touchdowns, including a 38-yard score in the third quarter.
Against Ole Miss, he averaged 5.4 yards per touch and became the first FSU back in nearly 10 years to have a 100-yard receiving game.
Cook worked on catching the ball during the offseason because he knew it was going to be a more integral part of the offense. Fisher is also hoping that it reduces the wear and tear on Cook.
“It just shows the versatility I have. It shows I’m not one dimensional, that I can catch the ball out of the backfield,” Cook said. “I kind of like it. Getting one on one with the linebackers, just winning that battle.”
Louisville is well aware of Cook’s versatility and big play capabilities.
In last season’s game, Cook had 163 yards on 22 carries along with a season-high four receptions for 60 yards. On the opening drive of the second half, Cook broke four tackles for a 54-yard touchdown that gave the Seminoles the lead.
Two years ago, Cook had 110 yards on nine carries, including a 38-yard score in the fourth quarter that put Florida State up for good.
“He makes quick decisions and he’s extremely fast,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. “He will be the fastest back we will play this year so we’ve got to do a good job of being disciplined in his gap controls and setting edges, and trying to make sure we get a lot of guys to the football.”
Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, who was one of the four Cardinals’ defenders that Cook made miss last year, says the defense has seen that play often over the past year and that it has served as motivation.
“It was crazy, bad play for us,” he said. “That’s what happens when players make plays. It is up for us to stop him.”
AP sports writer Gary Graves in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed.
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