University of Florida

UF’s No. 1 goal: End losing streak to Florida State

UF junior defensive back Quincy Wilson (6), a likely high NFL Draft pick, doesn’t want to go 0-3 against FSU.
UF junior defensive back Quincy Wilson (6), a likely high NFL Draft pick, doesn’t want to go 0-3 against FSU. AP

Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson has never been an FSU fan.

A Fort Lauderdale native, Wilson grew up supporting the Miami Hurricanes before committing to become a Gator after high school.

But in his two years playing at UF, Florida State has come out on top, with the Seminoles winning 24-19 at Doak Campbell Stadium in 2014 and 27-2 in Gainesville last season.

When No. 13 Florida faces 15th-ranked FSU in an 8 p.m. showdown with College Football Playoff hopes still alive for the Gators, it will more than likely be Wilson’s final chance to come out on top against his rival team.

“It will mean the world not to go 0-3 [against FSU],” said Wilson, a junior who is projected to be a first-round draft pick in this year’s NFL Draft. “We definitely gotta come out with a win this year. I would hate to lose again.”

And if Florida (8-2, No. 15 in CFP) wants to escape Tallahassee with a win, it will need to contain FSU’s junior running back Dalvin Cook, a playmaker who UF coach Jim McElwain has called “the most explosive player in all of college football.”

The numbers speak for themselves.

In just less than three seasons, Cook owns just about every rushing record possible in Florida State’s record book. This season, he became the first FSU runner to surpass the 4,000 rushing yard milestone, hopping past Warrick Dunn (3,959) for most yards by a Seminole tailback in program history. He owns the top-two single season rushing records and with 44 career rushing touchdowns, he is tied with Greg Allen for the program record.

“At the end of his career, we'll all sit back and just marvel, in my opinion, of how lucky we were to see him play and be a part of it, and what he's done for this university,” FSU coach Jim Fisher said. “The most important thing is how selfless and such a team player he is.”

This season, Cook ranks sixth nationally with 1,407 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns for FSU (8-3, No. 14 in CFP). He’s averaging just more than 6 yards per carry. He has home run potential every time he touches the ball. Cook has eight plays this season that have gone for at least 40 yards. The Gators as a whole have seven.

“This guy is fun to watch,” McElwain said, “and I wish at times when you’re watching it that you weren’t preparing to play it. You were just watching it for the pure joy of watching a good player. … I just think this guy’s as good as there is in the country.”

Florida will counter Cook with one of the top defenses in the country. UF is fourth in the SEC and 20th nationally in average rushing yards allowed (122.1 yards/game). Florida has also given up just 9 rushing touchdowns (T-11th nationally) and is allowing just 3.31 yards per carry (13th nationally).

And the success has come against top running backs.

Last weekend, the Gators became the first team all other than Alabama this season to not let one of LSU’s one-two running back punch of Derrius Guice and Leonard Fournette to run for at least 100 yards in a game. Three weeks earlier, they held Georgia’s Nick Chubb to 20 yards on the ground.

But the players acknowledge that they aren’t turning taking Cook lightly.

“He's the best back we'll face,” UF defensive lineman Jordan Sherit said. “What we have to do is not let him do what he likes to do, and that's hit the edge and get going. He does have tremendous speed, so we've got to limit the perimeter and stuff like that and just wrap up and tackle. If we do what we're coached to do, we'll have the same result we had last week."

Saturday: No. 13 Florida @ No. 15 FSU

Kickoff: 8 p.m.; Doak Campbell Stadium at Bobby Bowden Field, Tallahassee.

TV/radio: ABC; WINZ 940; WFTL 850.

Favorite: FSU by 7 1/2.

Records: Florida 8-2 (6-2 SEC); FSU 8-3 (5-3 ACC).

Series: Florida leads 34-24-2.

Florida injuries: Questionable — WR C.J. Worton (ankle); DL Justus Reed (undisclosed). Doubtful — OL Martez Ivory (leg); OL Cameron Dillard (knee); LB Jarrad Davis (ankle); DL Bryan Cox, Jr. (ankle); QB Luke Del Rio (shoulder). Out — DB Nick Washington (ankle); DB Marcus Maye (arm); LB Alex Anzalone (arm); WR Dre Massey (knee); DB C.J. McWilliams (ACL); OL Antonio Riles (knee).

FSU injuries: Questionable — A.J. Westbrook (concussion); DB Calvin Brewton (head); WR Da’Vante Phillips (wrist); DB Marcus Lewis (hip); LB Jacob Pugh (concussion); DE Jalen Wilkerson (concussion); LB Josh Brown (foot). Out — RB Johnathan Vickers (concussion); WR Jesus Wilson (foot); DT Adam Torres (foot); OL Landon Dickerson (knee); DB Nate Andrews (pectoral); DB Derwin James (knee); WR George Campbell (groin); DT Keith Bryant (foot).