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Dalvin Cook sets Florida State rushing record in 45-14 romp

By The Sports Xchange

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- While junior running back Dalvin Cook cemented his Florida State legacy, freshman quarterback Deondre Francois continued to build his as the 17th-ranked Seminoles thumped Syracuse 45-14 on Saturday in an Atlantic Coast Conference game before 32,340 fans at the Carrier Dome.

Cook rushed for 225 yards on 28 carries with touchdown runs of 25, 11, 17 and 8 yards, passing Warrick Dunn to become Florida State's career rushing leader.

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Francois, who has emerged as perhaps the top freshman quarterback in the country, threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns.

Florida State's defense held Syracuse to 233 yards of offense (37 on the ground) and had eight sacks and two interceptions against backup quarterback Zack Mahoney, who replaced injured starter Eric Dungey for the second straight game.

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"The tailback (Cook), he's an OMG guy, (and) the defense is really strong," Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. "They pressured our quarterback, (and) overpowered our offensive line."

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Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said he was particularly pleased with the play of his defense, which was led by lineman Brian Burns and Josh Sweat, who combined for 13 tackles and four sacks. The Orange converted only 4 of 17 third-down plays.

"For a team (Syracuse) that goes that fast, plays that tempo, the way we covered down, played the run, got pressure on the quarterback and played on third down was outstanding," Fisher said.

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Florida State (8-3, 5-3 ACC) will conclude its regular season on Nov. 26 at home against in-state rival and No. 23 Florida, which held on to beat No. 16 LSU 16-10.

"(Florida) had a great win today, from what it sounds like," Fisher said. "So we're going to be ready to play Florida-Florida State, two really good teams, and we've got to be ready to rock 'n roll."

Syracuse (4-7, 2-5) will play at Pittsburgh on Nov. 26 in its regular-season finale.

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Cook needed 19 yards to break Dunn's 20-year-old school record of 3,959 career yards and set the mark on his second carry, a pitch right that gained 41 yards and set up Florida State's second touchdown. Cook has rushed for 1,467 yards and 17 touchdowns this season while boosting his career yards to 4,166.

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"I looked to the sideline and all my guys were happy and they were cheering for me," Cook said of his record-breaking play. "I love those guys so much and they made it known that I did it."

Cook also became the first running back in ACC history to gain more than 4,000 yards in three seasons.

"He has great vision, speed, power, extends, gets on the edge; my hat's off to Dalvin," Florida State left tackle Roderick Johnson said. "I've been seeing it since 2014 and now I'm used to it him playing fast and breaking tackles."

Cook, who scored three touchdowns in the third quarter, left the game early in the fourth quarter after getting the wind knocked out of him on a play when he lost his second fumble of the game. He did not return for a chance at breaking his own school record with five rushing touchdowns in one game.

Fittingly, Cook set the career rushing record on the same field where he first made his mark as a college football player. On Oct. 11, 2014, the then-freshman Cook played because of injuries to Karlos Williams and Mario Pender and ran for 122 yards and a touchdown as the Seminoles defeated Syracuse 38-20.

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"It was a unique situation for me, coming back here to where I started at," Cook said. "It's a great place to play at, a great environment, and I was looking forward to playing against these guys. They come to play tough and give us all they got."

Francois, who entered the game leading all freshmen quarterbacks in passing yards per game (267.5), threw two scoring passes in the first quarter -- a 16-yarder to wide receiver Nyqwan Murray and a 15-yarder to wide receiver Travis Rudolph.

Francois finished 18 of 28 with one interception on a pass that he was trying to throw out of bounds.

"I did some good things, some bad things," Francois said. "But I feel like every game I'm learning from my mistakes and getting better."

Cook's 25-yard touchdown run in the second quarter ended an 80-yard drive and increased the Seminoles' lead to 21-0. Cornerback Tavarus McFadden set up that drive with an end-zone interception -- his national-best eighth pick of the season.

Florida State had two opportunities to build on its lead late in the second half, but Cook fumbled the ball away at the Syracuse 24 and Logan Tyler missed a 54-yard field goal attempt.

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Mahoney and wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo then breathed some life into the Orange by connecting on a 46-yard touchdown on the last play of the first half as Etta-Tawo came down with the Hail Mary pass.

Mahoney completed 16 of 36 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns.

"I thought our offensive line held up pretty well today, but I missed a lot of reads and a lot of throws," said Mahoney, a junior. "It definitely was not a game I was happy with and I will look at the screen tomorrow and criticize myself because I missed a lot of things."

Dungey, who is third in the ACC in total offense per game (330.2 yards), left Syracuse's Nov. 5 loss to Clemson late in the first quarter after absorbing a hard hit to a shoulder and head area and apparently suffering his third concussion in two years. Babers said he didn't know if Dungey would be available next week.

NOTES: Florida State has already clinched its 40th consecutive winning season (the longest active streak in the nation), and the Seminoles will tie the record for consecutive bowl appearances with 35. ... Florida State has won the last nine meetings since Syracuse captured the first game in 1966, when Floyd Little rushed for 193 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Orange to a 37-21 win. ... Orange redshirt senior WR Etta-Tawo, who ranks among the national leaders in receptions (81) and receiving yards (1,304), was named one of the 10 semifinalists for the 2016 Biletnikoff Award presented to the country's best receiver.

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