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A Different kind of Explosion: Dalvin Cook finding new ways to burn defenses

An exercise in diversification from one of the country’s top RBs.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Few players in Florida State football history have had the explosiveness Dalvin Cook possesses. With every touch of the ball Cook gets, people half expect him to take it to the house for six, regardless of the spot on the field. Cook has 19 career touchdowns of 20 or more yards and 32 other touches of 20 or more yards for his career (22 runs, 10 receptions).

But 2016 has been a different story for Cook. Teams have loaded the box and designed their game plans around limiting Cook’s ability to spring the big one. In 2015, Cook averaged 4.33 carries per game that went for at least 10 yards (explosive runs); he had 52 total carries of 10+ yards in 2015 for 1,280 yards and 15 TDs. So far in 6 games in 2016, Cook has been held to only 18 such carries for 406 yards and 3 TDs. His average has fallen to only 3 explosive runs per game and 13 of them came in the USF game (6 carries, 178 yards, 2 TDs).

Yet Cook, and Coach Jimbo Fisher, have found a way to get Cook involved in games and use his incredible burst to burn defenses for selling out to stop the run. Through 6 games, Cook has 20 receptions for 345 yards and 1 TD. 13 of those 20 receptions have gone for 10+ yards, netting 290 yards receiving. Cook is currently 2nd on the ‘Noles in receptions and yards behind Bobo Wilson. To put Cook’s current receiving numbers in perspective, only Karlos Williams in 2014 had more receptions as a running back (29) and only Williams in 2014 and Devonta Freeman in 2013 broke 250 receiving yards...for an entire season.

Despite the significant drop in explosive rushes, the added element of catching passes is not only helping young quarterback Deondre Francois find his footing as the season progresses, it is also providing valuable film for Cook’s pro prospects and potentially adding that other dimension that could separate him from other elite college running backs. As David Hale of ESPN pointed out this week:

So while fans and even some media members lament what might be wrong with Cook, not only is he refining his game, and becoming a legit all purpose back, he is on pace to make college football history in the process.

Other Stats & Facts for Week 7:

-FSU held UM to 4.60 yards per play, a season low vs. FBS opponents for FSU. Since 2014, FSU is 14-1 when holding the opponent to 5.5 ypp or lower, 10-5 when allowing more than 5.5 ypp.

-The defense has already forced 13 turnovers in 6 games (6 Fumb, 7 INT). The 2015 defense had 16 in 2015 (8 Fumb, 8 INT).

-Wake Forest has not scored a touchdown in Doak Campbell Stadium since 2006

2008- 4 FGs

2010- shutout

2012- shutout

2014- 1 FG