The Cowboys had their low points in Houston. But unlike how things spiraled out of control for Ollie Gordon and the Cowboys in Orlando, Gordon had a huge second half and wiped away frustrations by helping lead a comeback win.
HOUSTON— When sophomore Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon wove his way around three Houston tacklers for a game-sealing three-yard touchdown with 2:19 left, he celebrated with a staredown.
It was the second time a run of his ended in the west end zone. The first play elicited the opposite emotion.
OSU’s lowest moment Saturday came on a play from its three-yard line. Houston linebacker Malik Robinson, one of a few Cougars who penetrated the offensive line, dragged Gordon down to the red turf in the west end zone for a safety. It gave the Cougars a 23-9 lead with 4:12 in the second quarter. Plus, Houston was set to get the ball after the half.
Gordon said he’s never been tackled for a safety. Go back as far as you want. College, high school or peewee games.
“Never,” Gordon said. “That kind of hurt my heart on that one. But we shook back. Didn’t let it get to us.”
OSU beat Houston 43-30 on Saturday, moving to 8-3 (6-2 Big 12) and keeping a Big 12 Championship Game appearance in play. Gordon, who was held to a frustrating 25 yards on 12 carries in OSU’s blowout loss to UCF last week, returned to the form that’s becoming of the nation’s leading rusher.
He rushed for 164 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, and caught five passes for 16 yards.
Like last week, there were frustrations. OSU mustered just 21 first-half rushing yards, and Gordon hobbled off the field after OSU’s second-to-last play before halftime.
“I kind of got whiplashed into a dude’s leg,” Gordon explained postgame while wearing a black medical boot on his right foot. “Nothing too crazy about it.
“If we had a game tomorrow, I’d be ready to go.”
Houston dedicated defenders to combat OSU’s rushing attack. Safeties continually crept down from the second level in an attempt to outnumber Gordon and his blockers. It didn’t matter. Gordon scored the go-ahead touchdown against one such front.
With 8:04 in the third quarter and OSU down 23-19, ten of the eleven Houston defenders had at least one foot inside the hashes when Gordon took a handoff from the Houston 6-yard line.
Gallery: OSU’s 43-30 win at Houston in pictures
OSU guard Cole Brimingham twisted Houston defensive tackle Anthony Holmes Jr. away from the middle of the line of scrimmage and Gordon plowed 6 yards down the gut.
“(Houston) played heavy, heavy, heavy box, as you guys can tell,” coach Mike Gundy said. “Crashing, bringing everybody in a ‘stop Ollie defense, throw it if you can.’ Which is not a surprise. But we were able to find ways to rush the ball in the second half some and balance it out, which made it good.”
OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said Gordon got stronger throughout the game. When the Cowboys got the ball with 7:23 left and a six-point lead, OSU turned to Gordon to bleed the clock against a familiar run-first defense.
“I feel like, as the weeks go on, we’re getting better and better at seeing stacked boxes early and getting right with them,” Gordon said.
Gordon, whose black leg sleeve had long since torn on the right knee, ripped off a 10-yard gain with 6:20 left. He had an 8-yard jaunt on third-and-2 a little later. The clock kept rolling and Gordon paused only to jaw with Cougar linemen.
“I think he just started to really feel it,” Dunn said. “The momentum starts to swing and guys started to be amped up a little bit.”
Senior quarterback Alan Bowman said he was the beneficiary of Gordon’s return to form. Bowman was 29-for-43 for 348 yards and two touchdowns.
“When you can run the ball like that it opens up everything,” Bowman said. “Being able to run the ball at a high level with Ollie is huge.”
Gordon has rushed for more than 120 yards in all of OSU’s conference games aside from the UCF game. He has 14 touchdowns in seven Big 12 games. After last week’s debacle, consider it a relief.
“It felt good for us to bounce back and get to playing like us,” Gordon said. “How we know we can play. It was a great feeling to be back with the guys and be balling with them.”