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Record-breaker Dalvin Cook salvages win for No. 19 Florida State (w/ video)

Florida State's Dalvin Cook scores against North Carolina State in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015 in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)
Florida State's Dalvin Cook scores against North Carolina State in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015 in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)
Published Nov. 15, 2015

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State running back Dalvin Cook wasn't shy about touting his record-breaking season after Saturday's 34-17 win over North Carolina State.

Yes, Cook feels he belongs in the Heisman Trophy discussion.

Yes, he thinks he should be a finalist.

And yes, he believes he's worthy of becoming the fourth Seminole to win college football's most prestigious honor.

"Because I'm Dalvin," Cook said.

And as Saturday's performance showed, being Dalvin is enough to rescue the No. 19 'Noles (8-2, 6-2 ACC) during a rebuilding year, regardless of injuries, turnovers or a still-spinning quarterback carousel.

The Miami native took his third carry of the game to the right for 11 yards to top Warrick Dunn's 20-year-old FSU single-season rushing record (1,242) with two regular-season games remaining.

Cook didn't know he set the record with that rush, nor did he have time to celebrate it, in front of a homecoming crowd of 71,210 at Doak Campbell Stadium. Cook broke 13 yards up the middle for a touchdown on the next play to give FSU a 7-3 lead over the Wolfpack (6-4, 2-4).

"Warrick came and told me during the game the record was there to be broken," Cook said, "and I broke it."

Cook had to do more than that against a pesky Wolfpack team.

When three Everett Golson turnovers helped lead to FSU's 17-7 deficit, Cook again saved the 'Noles with a highlight-reel run that will be on his Heisman resume tape.

The play began poorly when backup quarterback Sean Maguire stumbled during the handoff.

"I ended up, like, diving to give it to him," Maguire said. "Good thing I did."

That's because Cook took off once he got the ball. He ran left and broke four tackles before cutting to the middle. He pounded his chest twice as he finished his 30-yard touchdown run that sparked FSU's string of 27 unanswered points.

"He's as gifted as they come," Dunn said.

Cook's sophomore season is even more remarkable considering the circumstances surrounding it. When the 'Noles took their team pictures three months ago, they took one set with Cook and one without him after he was charged with misdemeanor battery. He was reinstated from his indefinite suspension two weeks later after being found innocent.

Cook played only one quarter against Wake Forest because of a hamstring injury. He didn't play at all against Syracuse because of an ankle injury.

He tweaked his ankle again Saturday when he landed on it wrong in the first quarter. Before the injury, Cook rushed four times for 28 yards. After two visits to the training table, Cook carried 18 more times for 110 yards.

"Everyone knows how talented he is," Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. "What impressed me was how tough he was."

"That guy, he's past tough," Fisher said. "There's got to be another word past that now."

If it weren't for those injuries, more Heisman voters might find themselves agreeing with Cook after he pushed his rushing total to 1,369 yards.

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He entered Saturday averaging 8.3 yards per carry — most among players in power five conferences with at least 100 attempts. His 15 rushes of at least 20 yards also led power five players, as did his 3.88 average yards after contact (according to ESPN's Stats & Info).

Those numbers don't sum up how his 266-yard, three-touchdown performance helped the 'Noles pull away from USF in September. Or how he broke the winning touchdown run in last month's 29-24 win over rival Miami. Or how he helped FSU wake up Saturday to run away with a 17-point win.

"I don't know who's the best back in the country," Fisher said, "but I wouldn't trade that one for nobody in America."

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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