FSU's Cook returns to Syracuse with chance for record
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) The last time No. 17 Florida State visited Syracuse, Dalvin Cook was third on the Seminoles' depth chart and looking for an opportunity to prove himself.
Two years later, Cook is on the precipice of becoming the Seminoles' career rushing leader.
The junior, who has 3,941 career yards, needs 19 yards on Saturday to break Warrick Dunn's 20-year old mark. He is also 59 yards away from becoming just the sixth player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to reach 4,000 yards and would be the first to do it in three years.
Former North Carolina State standout Ted Brown is the ACC's career rushing leader with 4,602 yards from 1975-78. He is also the quickest to reach 4,000 yards as he did it in his 38th game. Saturday will be Cook's 36th.
Cook said he talked to Dunn before the Oct. 29 game against Clemson, but added there wasn't any discussion about the record. Cook reiterated earlier this week how much he has admired Dunn for what he has done on and off the field.
''When you have a guy like Warrick at the top of the list and see what he did with the program and as a human being, you have to humble yourself,'' Cook said. ''This is kind of like the first game of the season where I have to keep my emotions in check.''
Last Friday against Boston College , Cook appeared as if he was going to break Dunn's record at home as he had 108 yards through three quarters. But with FSU (7-3, 4-3 ACC, No. 17 CFP) up 35-0 coach Jimbo Fisher rested his starters in the fourth.
The Carrier Dome tough carries special significance for Cook.
It was there in 2014 he had his first 100-yard game (122 yards on 23 carries) in a 38-20 win. That was the first of five 100-yard games for Cook that season as he became the first freshman in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards (1,008).
''It was kind of like a situation I got thrown into due to injuries. They had confidence in me and I took advantage of the opportunities, ran from there and kept building my momentum,'' Cook said. ''I had to grow up quick and make the plays.''
Last season he broke Dunn's school single-season mark and finished with 1,691 yards. Cook didn't have a 100-yard rushing game this season until Sept. 24, when he had a career-best 267 yards at South Florida and has had six 100-yard games in his past seven.
With Florida State out of contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff, Cook has quietly put together what could be his best season. He is second among Power 5 running backs in rushing yards (1,242) and yards from scrimmage (1,642) while scoring 14 touchdowns.
''He's probably one of or the fastest back that we have in the conference,'' Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. ''I thought he was really good, but I didn't know how fast he was until I saw the Clemson game, and I saw him run away from the Clemson secondary. We couldn't run away from their secondary people.''
Cook's biggest improvement has been catching the ball. He has two 100-yard receiving games this season, including in an Oct. 1 loss to North Carolina when he became the first FSU running back to have 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game.
''I mean, he's always caught the ball well. But understanding how to run routes where leverages are and how to set holds. Now he's got certain things down and he keeps adding to his repertoire,'' Fisher said.
Cook's college career is likely down to its final three games, including a bowl game. Syracuse (4-6, 1-5) is Florida State's last ACC game this season followed by the Nov. 26 game at home vs. Florida.
Cook said he wouldn't discuss his future until after the season. However, he has been keeping a close eye on Ezekiel Elliott's rookie season in Dallas and how that could improve his draft stock.
''The position (in the NFL) was on the downfall for a couple years but guys like Zeke, Melvin Gordon (Chargers) and Todd Gurley (Rams) are doing a good job of showing how you have to have a running back to be successful,'' Cook said.
''Zeke is really showing how the position is valued. He can go 80 yards with it running or catching out of the backfield and he can block well. Those are the types of guys you want to have.''
More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
Follow Joe Reedy at www.twitter.com/joereedy