September 08, 2015

(AP) - With a lot of the preseason attention at Florida State focused on the quarterback competition, the running game was slightly overlooked.

By everyone it seems except Jimbo Fisher.

After racing past an overmatched opponent in their opener, the 11th-ranked Seminoles host South Florida on Saturday.

Florida State turned to Dalvin Cook and Mario Pender last Saturday against Texas State and mainly kept it on the ground with 23 of the first 32 plays being runs.

Cook and Pender allowed Everett Golson to settle in and gain confidence as the game went along. The running backs combined for 248 yards and averaged 7.5 yards per carry as the Seminoles cruised to a 59-16 win.

Both backs are considered to have different running styles, but Fisher said during his Monday press conference he sees more similarities especially in their versatility.

''Dalvin is more boom, boom, boom, and burst really quick, but when Pender sticks that foot in the ground and goes, he may be even more sudden than Dalvin is in that regard,'' Fisher said.

Cook's status for most of the preseason was in doubt after a June incident where he was charged with hitting a woman outside a Tallahassee bar. During media day, team photos were taken with and without Cook. He was found not guilty on Aug. 24 and reinstated.

Going into the opener, Fisher said he wasn't concerned about Cook's conditioning but how he could take some early contact. The sophomore ended up rushing for 156 yards on 19 carries along with two first-quarter touchdowns. It was Cook's fourth straight 100-yard game, making him the first Florida State back to do that since Greg Jones had five straight in 2001-02. Cook's longest carry was a 36-yard touchdown after running through a huge hole on the left side.

Cook is an every-down back, but Pender showed some potential as a change-of-pace option. The junior, who had career highs in carries (14) and yards (92) against Texas State, is not as durable as Cook, but did have four carries for 10 or more yards. He also might be a better receiver out of the backfield as he had a 17-yard reception on a screen during the second half.

A big key for Pender will be remaining healthy as he missed five games last year due to injuries.

Fisher said that being run heavy in the first half was by design to give the offensive line, which had four new starters, some confidence early.

Florida State started to mix it up a little bit in the second quarter before going a little more toward the pass in the second half. Golson had most of his passing yards in the second half as he finished 19 of 25 for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

After watching the film, Fisher said that Golson is continuing to adapt well to the offense.

Added Fisher: ''He's doing a good job of managing the game, interacting with his teammates, leading, doing those kinds of things, and learning our offense and doing a great job at decision making and accuracy.''

South Florida, which went 4-8 last season, defeated Florida A&M 51-3 in last Saturday's opener. The Bulls returned seven starters on defense, and they held the Rattlers to 12 rushing yards.

Florida State rushed for 182 yards in a 30-17 win over South Florida in the last meeting in 2012.

The Bulls' new up-tempo offense overwhelmed Florida A&M, racking up 556 yards with dual-threat quarterback Quinton Flowers totaling 204 yards and three touchdowns in his third career start.

"We worked really hard this offseason," Flowers said. "We are tired of losing. We stress that every day. If we want to make a change we have to go out and make some plays and that's what we did."

Freshman tight end Elkanah Dillon caught four passes for 126 yards, and sophomore Marlon Mack rushed for 131 yards as the Bulls finished with the seventh-most yards in school history and their most points since 2011.

Duplicating that performance is unlikely against a Florida State team that held Texas State to 171 yards through three quarters, but South Florida isn't too intimidated.

"They bleed like we bleed, they put on their pants like we put on our pants," Dillon said. "Florida State is just another team."

The Bulls may very well believe this is just another opponent, having knocked off the then-No. 18 Seminoles 17-7 in Tallahassee in 2009 - the year before Fisher took over the program.

Florida State has since won 13 consecutive home games against unranked, non-conference opponents.

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