No. 11 Florida State shakes off sluggish start, blasts Louisville
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Early in the season, Jimbo Fisher could understand if his Florida State team was a little tentative and tight during the first half. But at halftime of Saturday’s game against Louisville with the Seminoles trailing 7-6, his patience was starting to wear thin.
With five touchdowns in six second-half drives, the message was received.
Behind 372 yards passing and three touchdowns from Everett Golson along with Dalvin Cook’s fourth 100-yard game of the season, the 11th-ranked Seminoles broke it open in the third quarter en route to a 41-21 win over the Cardinals at Doak Campbell Stadium.
"I think you saw what a team can do in the first half when it’s not totally focused or it presses itself," Fisher said. "In the second half, when the team relaxes, it played up to its capability and still have it. Just go play. I know that sounds crazy, but that’s our only goal right now."
Florida State is off to a 6-0 start for the third straight season and extended its Atlantic Coast Conference win streak to 28, including four this year.
For the second straight season, the Seminoles are proving to be a strong second-half team. They have outscored opponents 126-47, including 62-14 in the third quarter.
In a trend that continued from last week’s win over Miami, the offense showed more balance. Golson, who had his eighth 300-yard game and his second since transferring to Florida State earlier this summer, completed passes to seven players and had three touchdowns.
Golson, who was 26 of 38, gave the Seminoles the lead for good with 8:05 remaining in the third quarter as he connected with Kermit Whitfield for a 70-yard touchdown up the right sideline. Whitfield had career highs in receptions (nine) and yards (172).
It is the eighth 300-yard passing game of Golson’s career and his second since transferring to Florida State earlier this summer.
Golson completed passes to seven players. Whitfield set career highs for receptions (nine) and yards (172).
"In the second half we stopped pressing, then we started playing faster. We were sluggish, maybe because of the early game, but we got our mind right and started playing out game," Whitfield said.
Cook had 28 yards at halftime but ended up having one of his best all-around games of the season. Along with 163 yards on 22 carries, the sophomore had a season-high four receptions for 60 yards. Cook had two touchdowns, including a 54-yard score where he broke four Louisville tackles on the opening drive of the third quarter. That is his fourth touchdown of 50-plus yards this season.
Florida State remains the only team in the nation without an offensive turnover.
"They really took over the line of scrimmage and when you have a guy that’s fast like he (Cook) is, and a great runner, you have to be able to tackle him well and we wore down," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "They did a really good job of working the clock and making big plays, converting third downs.
Cook has 955 yards through six games, which according to STATS is the most by an ACC running back since 1996. The previous mark was 888 yards by Virginia’s Thomas Jones in 1998. He is also still trying to manage a hamstring injury that he suffered in the Oct. 3 win at Wake Forest.
Said Cook of the injury: "It felt way better this week. In practice I try to manage it and not overdo it. Some plays I get going but manage it for the game."
Louisville (2-4, 1-2 ACC) was able to stay with the Seminoles for two-and-a-half quarters, but two turnovers in the third quarter derailed any momentum. Lamar Jackson, who grew up in Pompano Beach, Florida, and came into the game with a 53.6 completion percentage, passed for a career-high 307 yards and also had 32 yards rushing. James Quick had five receptions for 130 yards and three touchdowns.
The Cardinals had a 7-6 lead at halftime on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Jackson to Quick. Florida State’s lone points in the first half came on a pair of Roberto Aguayo field goals. After Cook’s first touchdown, Louisville scored on its ensuing drive on a Quick 19-yard touchdown reception to take a 14-13 lead. While Louisville’s first lead lasted more than 17 minutes, the second one was just 63 seconds.