SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) – Dalvin Cook ran for 225 yards and four touchdowns to become Florida State’s career rushing leader, and the 17th-ranked Seminoles beat Syracuse 45-14 on Saturday.
Cook entered the game needing 19 yards to break Warrick Dunn’s 20-year old school record for rushing (3,959) and did so with a 41-yarder in the first quarter. He finished the first half with 104 yards to become just the sixth player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to reach 4,000 yards and the first to do it in three years.
Florida State (8-3, 5-3, No. 17 CFP) won for the fifth time in six games and handed Syracuse (4-7, 2-5) its third straight loss.
Syracuse starting quarterback Eric Dungey again warmed up before the opening kickoff but did not play for the second straight game. The sophomore has been out since suffering a vicious hit to the shoulder-head area in the first quarter against Clemson two weeks ago.
Backup Zack Mahoney had trouble generating any consistency on offense against the Seminoles defense. Florida State intercepted two passes, registered eight sacks, and forced 10 punts in limiting the Orange to 3.2 yards per play. FSU averaged 8.6 yards per play.
Mahoney finished 16 of 36 for 196 yards, but he did have one lucky strike. He hit Amba Etta-Tawo with a 46-yard Hail Mary on the final play of the first half. Etta-Tawo caught the ball in double coverage at the right corner of the end zone.
If Syracuse had hopes the big play would provide a spark, Cook dashed those hopes with three touchdowns in the third.
After tight end Ryan Izzo’s 39-yard reception on the first possession of the third quarter, Cook scored on an 11-yard run and added two more scores in the period, from 11 and 17 yards. That matched his career high for TDs in a game and boosted his season total to 18.
Cook also had 47 yards on Florida State’s third scoring drive, capping it with a 25-yard TD run for a 21-0 lead in the second.
The Seminoles scored on their first two possessions. Deondre Francois hit Nyqwan Murray with a 16-yard TD throw to start the scoring and followed with a 15-yard scoring toss to Travis Rudolph for a 14-0 lead at 7:11 of the first quarter.
Florida State sacked Mahoney four times in the first quarter alone, and even when Brisly Estime gave the Orange tremendous field position with a 42-yard punt return into Florida State territory, the offense sputtered with a three-and-out.
Syracuse got another chance to break through in the second quarter after an interception near midfield by cornerback Christopher Frederick. Despite two false starts and a bad snap, Syracuse still had a chance to score, but on a third-and-goal from the 9-yard line Mahoney’s pass into the left corner of the end zone was intercepted by Tarvarus McFadden. It was his eighth pick of the season, tops in the nation.
The Seminoles kept their momentum going to reach an upper-tier bowl game, and if Cook keeps up his strong season and that opportunistic defense continues its stellar play, the Seminoles will be difficult to beat.
The Orange has had a difficult time without Dungey.
Winning for the fifth time this season next week on the road at Pittsburgh is necessary to even be considered for a bowl game, but if Dungey is through for the year that will be a tall task. Pitt drilled Duke 56-14 on Saturday.
Cook has seven 100-yard games this season and boosted his career rushing total to 4,166 yards. Francois was effective in the air as well, completing18 of 28 for 315 yards. He connected on passes to six different receivers, led by Auden Tate (five catches, 77 yards) and Rudolph (five catches, 64 yards).
With LSU’s loss to Florida, Florida State will move up at least a little bit in the rankings for both the AP Top 25 and College Football Playoffs.
The Noles will finish its regular season at home next Saturday against in-state rival Florida while Syracuse closes its regular season on the road next against Pitt.