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Will FSU’s Dalvin Cook be among most talented not to win Heisman?

He has more than 1,000 yards … again.

He is averaging more than six yards a carry … again.

He has more than 10 touchdowns … again.

So why does Dalvin Cook seem to be an afterthought in the Heisman conversation?

Oh, Cook, the talented running back of the FSU Seminoles, gets mentioned … eventually. But long after Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. And perhaps that’s as it should be. Jackson and Watson are very good players for very good teams, which is the way the voting seems to go anymore.

But in ESPN’s Heisman Watch this week, Cook ranked only sixth. He had half the votes of Donnell Pumphrey, the San Deigo State running back who leads the nation in rushing. He had one more vote than defensive end Jonathan Allen of Alabama. Cook had zero first-place votes, zero second-place votes.

All of which may make Cook the most impressive Heisman afterthought since Peyton Manning.

Currently, Cook is fifth in the nation in rushing. But that includes the stats of a running back from Wyoming, one from Middle Tennessee, and Pumphrey from San Diego State. Of the so-called power schools, the only back with more yards than Cook is Texas’ De’Onta Foreman, who has 17 more yards.

So what is it? Is it playing on a team with a bad defense? Is it familiarity? Was it the slow start?

Think about this. Cook already has 2,710 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns the last two years. With four games left, he should end up with around 3,200 yards and 35 touchdowns his last two seasons.

Yes, some backs have done better. But not that much. Archie Griffin of Ohio State won two Heismans in 1974 and 1975. In those two seasons, he rushed for 3,145 yards and 16 scores. In 1967 and 1968, O.J. Simpson finished second and first. He had 3,423 yards and 36 scores. Herschel Walker was second in 1981 and first in 1983. He rushed for 3,643 yards and 34 scores.

And those are the all-time greatest. The best performance probably was Texas’ Ricky Williams of Texas, who came in fifth in ’97 and first in ’98. He rushed for 4,072 yards and 52 scores his last two years. Kind of light?

Of course, the legends don’t always compare. Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard each finished in the top five for three straight years from 1944-46, Davis won it in ’46 and was second in the other two years. Blanchard won it in ’44 and was third and fourth his other two years.

Davis had a grand total of 2,309 yards. Blanchard had a total of 1,670. For three years.

And so Cook keeps churning. He might not catch the Heisman Trophy.

Just greatness.

Clemson holds off FSU to win a classic football game over Seminoles

At the end of a highlight show, the Clemson Tigers’ kept their dreams of reaching the national playoffs alive.

The third-ranked Tigers scored the final points of the game to take a breathless 37-34 victory over FSU Saturday night.

Clemson scored with 77 seconds left to play on a 34-yard pass from Deshaun Watson to Jordan Leggett. The Seminoles moved to the Tigers’ 34 yard-line with 34 seconds left to play, but two penalties and two sacks of quarterback Deondre Francois kept Clemson ahead.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher was irritated at the officials, especially when it came to a chop block that called back a 50-yard touchdown by Cook.

“It was ridiculous,” Fisher said. “It was not a chop, it was not a chop. I will tell you what, you hold coaches accountable, you hold players accountable, hold the damn officials accountable. It is garbage and then to call another penalty on the sideline is even more garbage. Its cowardly, gutless and wrong. They can fine it or do whatever they want to do with it. That is a fact, look at the film. It is ridiculous that they do that. That was a huge call in the game. We still had chances in the game to win after that, but it is ridiculous.”

Fisher didn’t agree with a targeting call against Trey Marshall, either.

“I didn’t think it was targeting,” he said. “I still don’t. I don’t think he led. He hit him with the side of his helmet. I don’t think he hit with his crown. They review that, but they don’t review Deondre (Francois) who is being exposed on a two-step deal and they won’t call that. Whoever is in the booth is bad too.”

In all, FSU had 13 penalties for 111 yards.

“You’ll never get in a rhythm as a team if you have penalties and yardage like that,” Cook said. “We’ve got to clean those things up as a team and especially as an offense. If we want to attain the goals and be the offense we want to be, we have to clean those things up. We can’t have those self-inflicted wounds. That will get a drive stopped.”

The Tigers took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. But FSU shaved the lead to three points by halftime, part of it on one of Dalvin Cook’s four touchdowns on the day.

The Seminoles led 28-20 after three periods, but couldn’t hold the lead. The Tigers outscored FSU 17-6 in the final period.

For Clemson, Watson threw for 378 yards against the FSU secondary. For FSU, Francois threw for 286 yards and Cook ran for 169 yards. Sophomore Nyqwan Murray caught six passes for 96 yards to lead FSU.

The Tigers’ Leggett caught five passes for 122 yards.

FSU entered the game ranked 12th in the country, but with their third loss, they could tumble. FSU plays at N.C. State Saturday.

The Predictions: Deshaun Watson will lead Clemson past FSU

For two weeks, the FSU defense has been solid.

For two weeks, opponents have found the game as difficult as ever.

Ah, but if you are an FSU fan, you remember. You remember quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Chad Kelly and Quinton Flowers and Mitch Trubisky. You remember teams constantly kicking extra points.

And now comes Deshaun Watson of Clemson. Yikes.

Watson, one of the leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy, has guided Clemson to a 7-0 record and the No. 3 ranking in the country. FSU, No. 12, will counter with Dalvin Cook and Deondre Francoise.

Two years ago, Watson threw for 266 yards against the Seminoles in a loss. Last year, he threw for 297 yards and ran for 107.

Clemson, however, has struggled at times this year. They had a hard time beating Auburn, Troy, Louisville, and N.C. State. So a trip to Tallahassee doesn’t seem as if it will be a cakewalk.

Look for FSU to stay close for three quarters. In the end, however, the defense that gave up 177 points in the team’s first five games is still vulnerable.

Prediction: Clemson 28, FSU 17

Florida vs. Georgia

Once upon a time, Florida’s Jim McElwain and Georgia’s Kirby Smart used to coach together under Nick Saban. These days, they’re both fighting for the SEC East title.

So far, Georgia’s move to hire Smart wasn’t, well, intelligent. The Bulldogs still have impressive pieces.

Florida’s defense, however, should be the best unit on the field again Saturday, especially if linebacker Jarrad Davis can play. Florida’s offense isn’t anything to brag about. Still, the Gators are 5-1 and the Bulldogs have lost three out of four, including last week’s game against Vanderbilt.

Prediction: Florida 20, Georgia 16

Miami at Notre Dame

The Hurricanes are on a three-game losing streak and have been beaten up across the defensive line.

Both teams believe this season could be a lot better. Notre Dame lost by three to Texas, by eight to Michigan State, by three to Duke and by seven to both N.C. State and Stanford. Miami lost by one to FSU.

At home, Notre Dame should have just enough to win.

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Miami 24

Navy at USF

When they play tonight, the Bulls will be trying to regain the momentum they lost against Temple last week.

USF still can move the ball with Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack. But Navy never seems to beat itself, which is one reason the Midshipmen are ranked No. 22 in the country. There are still large questions about a USF defense that gives up too many points.

Prediction: Navy 27, USF 26

UCF at Houston

The Knights are growing as a team, but they aren’t quite ready for a team as explosive as Houston. Look for the Cougers to dominate early.

Prediction: Houston 37, UCF 20

Western Kentucky vs. FAU

The Hilltoppers (5-3) won easily a week ago when quarterback Mike White hit 28 of 32 passes for 378 yards. The last time these two teams played, Western led only 14-13 at the half but then pulled away.

Prediction: Western Kentucky 35, FAU 21

Middle Tennessee at FIU

The Panthers can score, but it’s doubtful they can keep up with Middle Tennessee. Last week, the Blue Raiders upset SEC opponent Missouri as Brent Stockstill threw for 280 yards.

FIU, meanwhile, lost to Louisiana Tech.

Prediction: Middle Tennessee 34, FIU 13

The Pros

Miami Dolphins at New York Jets

Running back Jay Ajayi has been impressive with back-to-back 200-yard games, something only four players in NFL history have done. But the going will be tougher against the Jets, who struggle on offense but have impressive pieces on defense.

Look for quarterback Ryan Tannehill to be the difference, one way or another.

Prediction: New York Jets 20, Miami Dolphins 17

Oakland Raiders at Tampa Bay Bucs

The Bucs have won two straight road games. With three home games in a row, it’s time the team established a home field advantage. That’s easier said than done, however. The Raiders have impressive weaponry on both sides of the ball.

Prediction: Raiders 27, Bucs 23

Football flashback: When Bobby Bowden called the ‘puntrooskie’

Looking back, it might have been the biggest gamble in the history of college football.

Think about it. FSU and Clemson are tied, 21-21. Fourth down. Ball at their own 21. Ninety seconds to play.

And Bobby Bowden calls a legendary fake. The puntrooskie.

Can you imagine the daring? Can you imagine the moxie?

The amazing play started when the center snapped the ball to up-back Dayne Williams. Williams then put the ball between the legs of Leroy Butler, who went around the left end for 78 yards. He was tackled at the one, but the Seminoles won on Richie Andrews’ 19-yard field goal.

“We’re just lucky it worked, but if it hadn’t Clemson could’ve turned around kicked a field goal and beat us,” Bowden said.

Analyst Beano Cook said it was “the best play since My Fair Lady.”

Years later, Bowden said he considered that his favorite of his trick plays.

”It’s got to be first,” Bowden said. ”We’ve had some other successful ones, fake field goals for touchdowns and stuff like that. But that was way above my expectations.

”It had two-thirds of a chance of working, because on a punt (Clemson) did three different things: they tried to block; they tried to return, and the other was just to play safe and be sure that you punt. If they had done that, we would have made nothing. And they put the return on.”

Said Butler: ”I had butterflies as big as pterodactyls.”

Clemson and FSU go after each other again Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.

Steve Schale: Notes on the first day of early voting in Florida

Dear friends and casual Twitter followers:

It is Florida election memo time! I know you all are excited.

Fourteen days left. If Jaguars fans can survive the Gus Bradley era, America can do 14 days of this.

Also of note: 18 days until FSU basketball tips off.

So here are some notes on the first day of in-person early voting:

Frankly, for fans of the home team, it’s all good news.

Democrats entered the day down after about two weeks of vote-by-mail returns by about 20,000 votes. This 1.7 percent Republican Party advantage compares to a GOP advantage of 5 percent in 2012.

Then, early voting happened.

First, not all counties have reported yet (17 yet to report, most are small), but when all said and done, over 300,000 will have voted on Day 1. Just to put into scale, 1.2 million voted by mail in the first two weeks.

When you add in the mail ballots from yesterday, 22 percent of all the ballots cast in Florida were cast in person yesterday. That is a remarkable number.

In total, Democrats reduced the Republican advantage of 1.7 percent going into yesterday to around 0.5 percent after Day 1 (still counties reporting, so this number will move around).

Here are some interesting places on Day 1:

Won Duval County by 1,700 votes. Duval hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter, and is one of those places where Donald Trump really needs to run up the score. Dems also won the day in Polk County, an I-4 county that also hasn’t voted for a Democrat since Carter.

Won Volusia County by several hundred, again a place Trump was hoping to build on the gains of Romney in 2012.

And in bellwether county Hillsborough, the only place in Florida to vote for George W. Bush twice and Barack Obama twice, Democrats won by almost 3,000 votes, or roughly 14 points (49-35). By comparison, Democrats have a seven-point advantage in registration.

In fact, Democrats won every county along I-4, plus Pinellas — including both Republican strongholds Polk and Seminole. The total I-4 vote was 48-33 D. Seminole County hadn’t voted Democrat in a presidential election since Harry Truman.

Base turnout was also very encouraging.

In Orange County, Democrats won a robust day, 53-27 percent.

In Broward County, Democrats won a record day, 63-20 percent.

In Palm Beach, a county which improved for Mitt Romney in 2012, Dems won 53-27 percent.

In Alachua, where the University of Florida is, it was 65-22 percent Dems.

And in Dade County, 10,000 more voters showed up on the first day of early voting than 2012. Of the 35,000 who cast a ballot, Democrats won the day 53-27 percent.

Finally, with the help of a friend yesterday, I looked into the question of whether Democrats were simply “cannibalizing” their traditional vote by encouraging its traditional voters to vote early in person and by mail.

Two points: First, even if that’s all they did, Hillary Clinton would almost surely win Florida. Republicans need to expand the electorate to win.

But, that isn’t what is happening. Over 28 percent of Democratic vote-by-mail returnees as of yesterday were either first-time voters, or rare voters (voted in one of last three), compared to 20 percent for Republicans. Another way of looking at it: 80 percent of Republican Party vote-by-mail returns are from most-likely voters, compared to 72 percent of Democrats.

That is voter expansion.

I am going to try to do a little note each day. Try is the operative word.

As always, if you have any questions, give me a holler.

Steve

Dalvin Cook-Deshaun Watson battle highlights FSU-Clemson

There are headaches ahead for the Seminoles. Take a glance at Clemson, and you can see why they were in last season’s national championship game.

They have running back Wayne Gallman and receiver Mike Williams. They have corner Cordrea Tankersley and linebacker Ben Boulware. They have defensive linemen Christian Wilkins and Carlos Watkins.

But most of all, they have quarterback Deshaun Watson. He’s the player FSU needs to stop.

It’s the same on the other sideline. The Seminoles have quarterback Deondre Francois and wide receiver Travis Rudolph. They have defensive ends DeMarcus Walker and Josh Sweat. They have offensive tackle Roderick Johnson and linebacker Trey Marshall.

But mainly, they have running back Dalvin Cook. He’s job No. 1.

And so it will be that when FSU and Clemson face off Saturday, their stars will face off, too. One national poll this week ranked Watson as the No. 2 favorite for the Heisman. Cook was No. 6. It was that way when they two played last year. Watson threw for 397 yards and rushed for 107 more. Cook rushed for 194.

Oh, other players will matter, too. But those two will be in the starring roles. The defenders of FSU (12th in the polls) will be graded by how well they stop Watson. The Tigers (third in the nation) will be judged by how well they stop Cook.

Watson is 16th in the nation in total offense. Cook is ninth in rushing.

And stopping the opposition? Clemson is 30th against the run. FSU has improved, but it’s still 75th against the pass.

In other words, the game is going to be interesting. So, too, will the game inside the game.

Game time is 8 p.m. at Doak Campbell Stadium.

FSU hoops prepares for season as football takes a break

This weekend will be the quietest of the entire college football season in Florida. Miami played on Thursday and South Florida is at Temple on Friday. Florida State, Florida, and Florida Atlantic have the weekend off, leaving Central Florida at UCONN and Florida International hosting Louisiana Tech as the only FBS games on Saturday.

There could be no better time to take a pre-season look at basketball teams as they get ready for season openers. For Florida State, the first competition is less than a week away.

Not that he feels it, but Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton has the most pressure for his team to show results. While he lost Malik Beasley to the NBA, one half of last year’s star freshman duo, the other half is back and even better.

Dwayne Bacon will be the face of this team and his play and leadership will be a key in determining how far FSU goes. He also has some teammates returning from last year, but also some new talent.

The Seminoles bring in the 10th-ranked recruiting class in the nation, trailing only Duke and Virginia in the ACC. The group is led by power forward Jonathan Isaac out of the IMG Academy in Bradenton. Isaac is a five-star recruit, which means he will be in Tallahassee for a maximum of two years, if that. ESPN ranked Isaac the ninth-best high school player in the nation.

Shooting guard Trent Forest of Chipley and point guard C.J. Walker of Indianapolis, a four-star and three-star, respectively, has the making of a solid backcourt.

“C.J. is a pure point guard,” Hamilton told the Tallahassee Democrat. “Trent Forest is a combo, but can play both equally as effective. The point guard of the off-guard.”

Along with Bacon, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Terance Mann return at guard, while two regulars from two seasons ago return from injury. Phil Cofer is expected to make big contributions at forward, while rebounding and defense, and perhaps a few points, are expected from big man Michael Ojo.

There is no question some quality talent is there. Hamilton and his staff have proven themselves to be superior recruiters. Criticism comes when the results are thought to be disproportionate to the talent at hand.

The 2016 Seminoles are expected to be in the upper division of the ACC. They were ranked just outside of the top 25 in this week’s USA Today pre-season poll (voted on by coaches).

A slow start or an inexplicable loss will fire up the anti-Hamilton crowd. Earlier this year, FSU Athletic Director Stan Wilcox gave Hamilton an extension through the 2018-19 season.

Anything short of an NCAA tournament appearance is likely to bring calls for Hamilton’s ouster, the extension notwithstanding. The Seminoles’ last appearance in the Big Dance was 2012.

If he can get this talented group of players to play at both ends and the young players show steady improvement and confidence, he should not have anything to worry about. Fans will get a first look at this team on Thursday, Oct. 27 when FSU hosts Southeastern University in an exhibition game at the Tucker Center.

 

FSU team finally coming together in time to play Clemson

For most of the football season, the FSU football team was giving out reasons why it couldn’t complete.

The quarterback was too young. The running back was too hurt. The defense was too weak.

Now, with two weeks to go before the Tigers come town, the Seminoles have suddenly taken on the look of a team that has a chance.

The quarterback, Deondre Francois, has proven to be a tough competitor, although coach Jimbo Fisher winces with all the hits he takes. The running back, Dalvin Cook, is chewing up yardage again.

And the defense?

Suddenly, it is playing hard, aggressive football.

Perhaps it started against Miami, when FSU held the ’Canes to less than 300 yards. Perhaps it was validated in a 17-6 win over Wake Forest. But suddenly, the defense looks as if it can do more than chase Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.

“They played great today,” Fisher said. “Controlled the line of scrimmage. … I’m very proud of them. Man, you talk about the situations they got put in today? Man, they played their tails off.”

Oh, Clemson will still be favored. But for the first time all season, it wouldn’t stun people if FSU won.

FSU receiver Travis Rudolph wins the weekly Sunshine State Award

In the FSU offensive huddle, there are a lot of stars.

There is Dalvin Cook, a Heisman favorite. There is Deondre Francois, the tough quarterback.

But don’t forget about Travis Rudolph, the wide receiver who has stardom written all over him.

On Saturday against Wake Forest, Rudolph caught 13 passes for 258 yards, winning the Sunshine State Player of the Week award. In the past, quarterbacks and running backs have dominated the award, but this week, the memories of Rudoph snaking through the Wake Forest secondary cannot be ignored.

“I feel like I can do that any week,” Rudolph told the Orlando Sentinel. “When my number is called, I’ve got to make the best of it.”

Other candidates for the award include FSU teammates Francois (319 yards passing) and Cook (115 yards rushing); Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis, who had eight tackles; Florida running backs Lemical Perine (106 yards rushing) and Jordan Scarlett (101 yards); Miami defensive back Corn Elder (14 tackles); USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (370 yards of combined offense and five touchdowns); USF linebacker Augie Sanchez (11 tackles and three sacks); USF running back Marlon Mack (107 yards rushing); UCF receiver Tre-Quann Smith (three catches for 103 yards); FIU quarterback Alex McGough (319 yards passing); FIU receiver Thomas Owens (11 catches for 148 yards); FAU running backs Devin Singletary (111 yards rushing) and Greg Howell Jr. (109 yards); and FAU receiver Kalib Woods (five catches for 100 yards).

The Sunshine State award is presented each week by the SaintPetersblog.

Turnovers hurt FSU, but performances still lead to victory

The points didn’t seem to match the performances for FSU Saturday night.

Thanks to four turnovers, the Seminoles had to settle for a ho-hum 17-6 victory over Wake Forest.

Still, there was a lot to remember to the FSU victory, which improved the team’s record to 4-2. Quarterback Deondre Francois threw for 319 yards, wide receiver Travis Rudolph caught 13 passes for 258 yards, and running back Dalvin Cook ran for 115 yards in the victory. In all, FSU had 442 yards of total offense.

An even better sight for the Seminoles was the defense, which held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time all season. Josh Sweat had 6 ½ tackles for the Seminoles.

“Our defense was outstanding and created opportunities. Offensively we got yardage but didn’t finish drives,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.

The Seminoles have a bye week next week, then face Clemson at home the following week.

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