Cook, ‘Noles run past Bulls on national stage

FSU running back Dalvin Cook (4) had a career day at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday as he rushed for 267 yards and two touchdowns. ORACLE PHOTO/JACKIE BENITEZ

With an opportunity to solidify itself as one of Florida’s elite college football programs, USF was reminded Saturday that they still have a long ways to go, losing 55-35 to Florida State at Raymond James Stadium.

In front of the sixth-largest crowd in USF history (announced 61,665), No. 13 Florida State (3-1) relied on its rushing attack, headed by Dalvin Cook. In a near repeat of last year’s effort, Cook rushed for 267 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. 

“It’s not necessarily what they are doing scheme wise as much as what we’re doing,” Coach Willie Taggart said postgame.

“They kept running the same play, and we didn’t do a good job adjusting to it. Like I said, you gotta tackles guys…you have to hang on. You can’t let those guys go. If you let ‘em go, the results are the results.”

In a similar script to last year’s 34-14 loss to the Seminoles in Tallahassee, the Bulls had no answer for FSU All-American running back Dalvin Cook on Saturday.

Cook, who rushed for 266 yards in last year’s contest, broke it open once again against USF (3-1).

Complimenting Cook in the backfield was sophomore running back Jacques Patrick, who finished the day with 124 yards rushing and a score of his own. 

Redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois ran for 75 yards himself, while leading the Seminole offense on 11-of-19 passing for 169 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

“They had a good plan,” junior linebacker Auggie Sanchez said.

“They were a ‘cut-back’ team today…you see them on film and you see Cook trying to get it to the edge a lot, and that’s what we tried to take away…they kept getting it to the edge. Him and #9 (Jacques Patrick)…you’re not going to win a game when they have 500 yards rushing.”

Over their last two meetings, Cook has punished the Bulls with 595 total yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.

Although Cook touched the ball on almost 40 percent of Florida State’s plays from scrimmage, it was his first carry of the afternoon that proved to be his most important, as it came immediately after the Bulls scored on the very first play of the game.

USF quarterback Quinton Flowers lofted a pass to senior Rodney Adams deep down the right sideline for an 84-yard touchdown to open the game at 7-0. The 84-yard catch and run was the fourth-longest play from scrimmage in USF history.

Florida State turned immediately to Cook for a response, which they got in the form of a 75-yard touchdown from him up the left sideline.

The Bulls countered on the next drive with a Marlon Mack 1-yard touchdown run. However, Cook found the end zone once more, this time from only 13 yards out to tie the score at 14-14 only 4:38 into the ball game.

Following those opening scores, USF found themselves in an offensive rut for the first time this season.

After opening the game on the long score to Adams, Flowers would only go on to complete four more passes on the afternoon. Flowers would finish 5-of-14 for 160 yards with 2 interceptions and the single score. 

From that stalling point, the Bulls would go on the surrender 38-straight points, trailing as much as 45-14 at one point.

Even with the game out of reach late, junior D’Ernest Johnson scored three touchdowns with Mack and Darius Tice out of the game. Mack exited due to a poked eye and Taggart said Tice may have a broken ankle. 

USF will open conference play next Saturday when it travels to play at Cincinnati at 7 p.m.