Florida State's Dalvin Cook stuck another notch in in his record-setting freshman season as a Seminole on Saturday when Florida State defeated Georgia Tech 37-35 to win its third straight ACC Championship. Cook has been Florida State's most explosive back – but with senior starter Karlos Williams out with a concussion, Cook had to become its most complete back.
The dazzling tailback rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown on a bruising 31 carries, routinely gashing the Yellow Jackets' defense for large chunks of yardage.
"He's a tremendous running back and guy, he was vital to our win tonight especially with Karlos [Williams] being out," center Cam Erving said.
But it wasn't just his ability to tote the rock.
Cook's ability to pick up the pass blocking schemes allowed Florida State coaches to be comfortable playing him for the majority of the game. Mario Pender did not receive a single carry against the Yellow Jackets, and Cook routinely showed his pass protection was up to par to stay in the game, the Noles did not give up a single sack on the night against Tech's blitz heavy scheme and Winston was rarely pressured.
"I think it was just my time, I had to put my foot on the gas and keep going," Cook said. "I had to pick up the offense quicker and learn how to pass block."
Cook has had to shoulder the load before, too.
It was just a season ago in high school when Cook took advantage of a similar situation when his running mate at Miami Central, Joseph Yearby went down for the season. Cook proceeded to rush for 223 yards and four touchdowns in the State Championship game leading Central to victory over Armwood.
His versatility is what has made him so dangerous, with his ability to catch passes (five on the night) in addition to the rushing prominence. With the improved pass blocking, Cook has become a true every-down back. The 31 carries for Cook was the most given to any running back during Fisher's tenure at FSU thus far, and tied for the sixth most in Florida State history.
"He's been doing it since the fall camp, but he's turned into something special," Erving said.
Since Week 10, Dalvin Cook has 22 runs of 10+ yards. Among P5 backs, only Melvin Gordon and Samaje Perine have more (25 each).— David Hale (@DavidHaleESPN) December 7, 2014
"He's a special guy, he really is. The balance he's bringing really changes us as a team," head coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Cook has surfaced as Florida State's best option in the backfield, consistently proving to be the most dangerous runner on the roster. Over the last six games, the freshman has rushed for 636 yards and five touchdowns, breaking the one hundred yard barrier three separate times. As a whole, the Seminole rushing attack has improved as they have nearly doubled their rush yard totals (145 YPG) since Cook's emergence compared to the first six games against FBS competition prior (81.67 YPG).
As the Seminoles embark on the playoffs, the freshman running back will be essential to the team's success. The new ability to consistently run the football has turned Florida State's offense into a true balanced attack. With a passing game that has the ability to be effective against nearly any defense, Dalvin Cook's reliable game breaking ability keeps every defense on its heels.
"I had to make Coach Fisher trust me, I needed to just gain his trust," Cook noted.
With his recent trend of performances, he's done that and plenty more.