Mike Gundy: “We didn’t see it. Maybe we missed it.”
HOUSTON — A year ago, Ollie Gordon played Wisconsin in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl and didn’t stand out.
Gordon, a true freshman at the time, ran 12 times for 48 yards, an average of 3.8 yards per carry. If anything he did in that game sticks in memory, it was as a receiver. He caught an improvised one-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Garret Rangel, who staved off a tackle and under-handed a pass across the goal line.
The OSU rushing attack struggled that night in Arizona, totaling 52 yards in a 24-17 loss. Gordon wasn’t mentioned in the season debrief press conference.
What a difference a year makes.
Gordon delivered an early Christmas present to Cowboy fans when he announced Sunday in a video with OSU president Kayse Shrum he was returning for his junior season. Yet just as Gordon was relatively unknown last year, question marks are the staple OSU’s 8 p.m. Texas Bowl game Wednesday against Texas A&M on ESPN. Could an unheralded player set up a breakout 2024 season? And, more broadly, who will even participate?
The Aggies are in the middle of sweeping coaching changes. Former head coach Jimbo Fisher, offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino and DJ Durkin are all out. Texas A&M had the SEC’s No.1 defense, allowing 295 yards per game, but faces serious attrition:15 Aggies entered the transfer portal. Among them are On3’s No. 1 and No. 2 overall portal recruits defensive lineman Walter Nolen and receiver Evan Stewart and starting quarterback Max Johnson.
Gordon is the game’s biggest star. He led the nation in rushing yards and earned the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back, along with unanimous All-America honors.
“(Gordon) is elite,” said Texas A&M interim coach Elijah Robinson, who will leave to become Syracuse defensive coordinator after the game.. “He won the Doak Walker for a reason…he’s a patient runner, he’s getting downhill. We understand the challenge.”
Gordon had just two games where he topped 50 rushing yards in 2022 and two where he surpassed 10 carries.
OSU’s coaches didn’t know what they had a year ago. Nobody did.
“If we would have seen or known what we ended up having, a Doak Walker winner, then we would have (molded the offensive scheme around Gordon) earlier,” Gundy said. “We didn’t see it. Maybe we missed it.
“I don’t think Ollie gave anybody in this organization or you guys any indication of what we had with him until after the third game of 2023.”