Three-Point Stance: Dalvin Cook, Florida State defense difference in epic Orange Bowl
Be honest, when the announcement came during the Orange Bowl pregame Friday night that No. 6 Michigan's Heisman Trophy finalist Jabrill Peppers was sitting out vs. No. 11 Florida State, you turned the hype dial down a bit.
Maybe, just maybe, you turned it down that much more when the Wolverines lost All-American tight end Jake Butt to an apparent knee injury.
Shame on you.
The Seminoles and Wolverines delivered, with Dalvin Cook potentially capping his college career with an MVP performance in a 33-32 survival in Miami.
Jasen VinloveJasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
1. In appreciation of Dalvin Cook, the human embodiment of the fire emoji
The only thing that is likely to deny Dalvin Cook becoming the most prolific running back in Florida State history is time.
Needing 72 yards against Michigan's 12th-ranked rush defense to pass North Carolina great Amos Lawrence for second on the ACC's all-time rushing list, Cook got that and then some.
He ran for 145 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, giving him 4,464 yards and leaving him trailing just NC State's Ted Brown, who had 4,602 yards.
To appreciate Cook, though, is to realize the amount of games he's produced that yardage in. Granted, bowls count into the Seminole's season total -- a luxury that Brown, Lawrence and anyone else who did their damage before 2002 didn't have -- but Lawrence reached his yardage in 44 games over four years, and Brown's record was in 43.
Cook has played in 38 games, missed all of one game last season and had just two carries in another. He also didn't register a carry in his Florida State debut in 2014, and had nine carries or less in five games that season.
With the expectation that he's played his final college game, we're talking about 16 games in a three-year span in which Cook had 20 or more carries and 687 carries in all, and that propelled him to second on the conference's rushing list.
By comparison, Brown had 860 carries and Lawrence 881. Fittingly, after Deondre Francois' interception was returned for a third-quarter touchdown, it was Cook that shook the Seminoles out of their fun, ripping off a 71-yard run on 3rd and 22 on their own 13-yard line.
The career of Dalvin Cook is summed up simply: he's second on the league's all-time rushing list, yet his career attempts don't even put him in the top 20.
Explosiveness, thy name is Dalvin.
Jasen VinloveJasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
2. Francois overcomes second-half struggles with crucial TDs
Franocis, the redshirt freshman quarterback, who entered the night 36th in the nation in pass efficiency, and had been shaky with four games of less than 60 percent completion percentage since Oct. 15, was surprisingly pinpoint early.
He threw for 173 yards including an Orange Bowl-record 92-yard touchdown strike to Nyqwan Murray -- then here's how the first three drives of the Seminoles' second-half went:
• Punt • Punt • Pick-Six
After Cook delivered a boost with that 71-yard run, it was Francois that delivered the score on his own from three yards out. Then, after Kenny Allen's 65-yard kickoff return and a 21-yard Cook reception following Michigan's go-ahead score, Francois -- who had hit on just two of his first 10 attempts after halftime -- connected with Murray for a 12-yard score.
If Cook is gone, this will be Francois' offense to lead next fall. This performance, in which he overcame his struggles to finish 9 of 27 for 222 yards, two scores and the INT, will loom large in laying the groundwork for that transition.
Logan BowlesUSA TODAY Sports
3. Florida State's defense ends season with serious momentum
The Seminoles defense went to Miami ranked 29th in the nation, allowing 357.2 yards per game, and yielding 24.4 points (40th), numbers that paled in comparison to the Wolverines. They came in second in total D (252.7), and in points allowed (12.5).
Yet despite the late drama, Florida State's defense largely set the tone, racking up a season-high 15 tackles for loss and continuing the level of play that largely defined its November.
That 63-20 blowout at the hands of Louisville, in which eventual Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and Co. racked up 530 yards hurt. So too did Clemson piling up 511 yards on Oct. 29.
In the last three games of the regular season, though, the Seminoles allowed no more than 233 yards, and held its last two opponents No. 15 Florida and No. 6 Michigan to 207 and 252 yards, respectively.
The struggles of the offense kept the defense on the field in the second half as Michigan followed its pick-six with touchdowns on consecutive drives to take a 30-27 lead with 2:17 to play. But after setting the tone early, it was again the Seminoles defense that sealed the deal, with Carlos Becker picking off Wilton Speight with 16 seconds to play.