Major college football’s leading rusher met one of its worst defenses against the run on Saturday. The UCF Knights, and not Ollie Gordon, ruled the day.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Ollie Gordon looked dumbfounded.
Facing a third-and-goal from the UCF 8-yard line early in the fourth quarter of a game long since decided, Gordon discovered a soft spot in the UCF defense.
Finally, on a rainy Saturday afternoon notable mostly for his sideline pacing, exercise bike pedaling and animated discussions with coaches, teammates and UCF fans, Gordon found an opening.
Through Oklahoma State’s five-game winning streak, Gordon turned opportunities like these into touchdowns while becoming the nation’s rushing leader. But not Saturday.
Gordon dropped Alan Bowman’s pass and stood there with a look of astonishment. Not that the drop or the fact OSU was stopped on fourth down mattered. By then, the Cowboys were well on their way to a 45-3 loss to a UCF team that came in with one Big 12 victory and a statistical ranking among the nation’s worst rushing defenses.
Gordon, whose explosive rushing performances had put him in the Heisman Trophy conversation, gained 25 yards Saturday on 12 carries, his fewest in six Big 12 games.
His fumble on OSU’s opening possession was the first of four Cowboy turnovers.
“(Gordon) got frustrated a little bit,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy, who did not make Gordon available for postgame interviews.
“But he does that a lot, he’s a very animated, emotional young man and when things are going good he does that.”
Gordon came in averaging 186 yards rushing in six conference games. UCF’s defense surrendered 211 yards per game to rank 127th out of 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“He’s an emotional player,” said Bowman, who stood beside Gordon in the second half as UCF ran down the clock. “He plays at a high level, but he plays with high emotions. To be able to control that, I think emotions got to the best of all of us, I don’t think it was just him. And obviously, I think not being able to run, some of the conversations we had, I think trying to stay positive, trying to find a way to move the ball and unfortunately we just couldn’t today.”
Gordon came in averaging 7.09 yards per carry. Against UCF, eight of his 12 attempts went for two yards or less.
“I don’t think we blocked very good,” Gundy said. “I don’t think (Gordon) had a lot of places to run the ball, I mean, I would have to watch the tape to be fair. But I don’t know that we covered guys up and gave him creases in this game like he’s had the last four or five games.”
The Cowboys totaled a season-low 52 rushing yards on 25 carries. Sophomore Jaden Nixon and freshman Sesi Vailahi, playing his first game, mopped up for Gordon late and combined for 42 yards. OSU’s previous season low was 94 yards on 29 carries against South Alabama.
“Ollie, he’ll bounce back,” junior linebacker Collin Oliver said. “He’s mentally strong. I’m counting on him to. As a voice of our team, I’m counting on him to bounce back strong.”