Jimbo Fisher asked Dalvin Cook a simple question the day after he carried the ball 30 times against South Florida.
“How do you feel?”
Cook was straightforward.
“Coach, I feel fine.”
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Fisher didn’t plan on Cook having so many carries. But he did what any coach would: Ride the hot hand.
Cook finished with 266 yards for an average of just under 9 per carry. He now has 49 rushing attempts in two games (seventh-most nationally) for 422 yards (second).
“It was just how the game went and he was making plays at critical times,” Fisher said. “Some guys can’t take that wear and tear. His body feels really good.”
Fisher will enter Friday’s game at Boston College (8 p.m., ESPN) with the same mindset of keeping his offense balanced. But if Cook continues his sizzling start, look for Fisher to continue to ride his sophomore running back, especially if it means extending the Seminoles’ 21-game ACC winning streak.
No. 9 FSU (2-0, 0-0 ACC) has not lost a conference game since Oct. 6, 2012, at North Carolina State. The streak started the next week with a 51-7 victory at home against Boston College.
Cook is averaging 24.5 carries in the first two games. Not that he will maintain that pace, but still, he could challenge the school record for carries, which belongs to Larry Key ( 239 in 1977 or 21.7 per game).
In just more than one season at FSU, the former Miami Central High star has proven durable. He is 5-foot-11 and 202 pounds, but tightly wound and solidly put together. He became the focus of the offense late last season, averaging 23.3 carries the last three games. Included was a career-high 31 totes in the ACC championship game against Georgia Tech.
Cook is one game shy of equaling Warrick Dunn’s school record of six consecutive 100-yard games.
The burden placed on Cook is not surprising considering quarterback Everett Golson arrived in June after transferring from Notre Dame and will need more time to absorb Fisher’s entire playbook.
But Cook was suspended for six weeks (including the first 2 ½ weeks of camp) while awaiting trial for a misdemeanor battery charge in which he was found not guilty. He could easily have fallen behind in his conditioning.
“My body actually feels great,” Cook said Monday. “I’ve been taking good care of it. I was able right after the game to get a lot of treatment to recover. That night I wasn’t too banged up.”
Fisher said he trusts backup Mario Pender, who has 123 yards on 21 carries, and believes Pender will get his share of at-bats.
“We have a rotation to get Mario in there,” Fisher said. “The last game we didn’t. … We want to get so many attempts for Dalvin first but we went three-and-out, three-and-out, then all of a sudden Dalvin gets hot in that second half and we didn’t take it out of his hand.”
Cook and FSU face a Boston College defense that is difficult to gauge. The Eagles (2-0, 0-0) are first nationally in scoring defense (1.5 points per game), total defense (51.0 yards per game) and rushing defense (7.0 yards per game). But those totals have come against Maine and Howard.
After allowing 11 yards (four passing, seven rushing) in a 76-0 victory over Howard last week, coach Steve Addazio said, “I don’t put a lot into anything right there, I really don’t.”
What Addazio is putting stock into is Cook.
“People bounce off of him,” he said. “That means he’s hard to tackle. He’s got speed, he’s got elusiveness, but he’s got power.
“This will be a real test as to how good our run defense is.”