Jayden Daniels deserved his Heisman, and Ollie Gordon deserved to be there

Jayden Daniels deserved his Heisman, and Ollie Gordon deserved to be there

Two thousand yards gets a running back to the Heisman ceremony. From that standpoint, Ollie Gordon’s absence was due to his coaches’ September shortsightedness. That’s wrong. Mostly, Gordon’s absence was due to his team’s shortcomings. That’s more wrong.

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

| Dec 10, 2023, 7:30am CST

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

Dec 10, 2023, 7:30am CST

Jayden Daniels deserved the Heisman Trophy he received Saturday night. 

And Ollie Gordon deserved to be in New York as a finalist. 

I thought so, anyway, and included Gordon on my Heisman ballot behind Daniels, LSU’s splendid quarterback with undeniable numbers, and Michael Penix, Washington’s splendid quarterback who has made an undeniable difference in the Huskies’ College Football Playoff season. 

A “homer” vote? Sure it is, since I know Gordon a lot better than Daniels, Penix, finalists Bo Nix and Marvin Harrison Jr. or anyone else who was up for consideration. 

I was around Gordon quite a few times this season, right up to the moment he spotted Oklahoma State athletic director Chad Weiberg in the tunnel on his way off the AT&T Stadium field last week at the Big 12 title game. Gordon sidestepped the Cowboys’ procession when he saw Weiberg and gave OSU’s AD a hug. That didn’t surprise me. 

I was in the Boone Pickens Stadium tunnel immediately after Bedlam Nov. 4. Twenty minutes elapsed and Gordon was still in the middle of the on-field pandemonium. Four offensive linemen came jogging back from OSU’s locker room to retrieve him. They looked happy to oblige. 

Gordon’s teammates like him. 

“When you truly love somebody as a brother, as a teammate, things like that, you’d do anything for him,” Braden Cassity, one of Gordon’s prime lead blockers, said last month. “That’s just kind of the mindset I have for Ollie. Like, I would do anything to get this guy in the end zone.” 

I like him. That makes a difference when marking a Heisman ballot. It is insight into a candidate that I can’t possibly have with anyone outside OSU’s and OU’s programs. 

My football appreciation for Gordon, named the Doak Walker Award winner as the nation’s best running back Friday night, cut deeper on my ballot. 

He leads the nation in rushing yardage and is second to Michigan’s Blake Corum in rushing touchdowns. That is absurd since he carried 19 times over OSU’s first three games. 

Had the Cowboys attacked Central Arkansas, South Alabama and Arizona State like they did everyone else, meaning whittle down their run calls and get their best player the ball, Gordon would be at or very near 2,000 yards. 

Two thousand yards gets a running back to the Heisman ceremony.

From that standpoint, Gordon’s absence was due to his coaches’ September shortsightedness. That’s wrong.

Mostly, Gordon’s absence was due to his team’s shortcomings. That’s more wrong. 

Stanford running back Bryce Love and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson were the last Heisman finalists from 4-loss teams. That was in 2017, the year Love got to New York behind a 2,000-yard season and Jackson returned to defend his 2016 Heisman. Two built-in advantages Gordon didn’t have. 

Basically, Gordon needed OSU to be better than 9-4. It would have helped for OSU to make the Playoff, since 20 of the last 32 Heisman finalists before this season were from Playoff teams. 

This is how the question gets asked: Does the Heisman go to college football’s best player, or the best player on one of college football’s best teams? 

Good for Daniels to break through on LSU’s 9-3 ReliaQuest Bowl team. Hard to deny a guy responsible for 4,946 total yards and 50 total touchdowns, and whose quarterback rating eclipsed Joe Burrow’s from 2019. 

Daniels did what he could to elevate an LSU team with a soft defense, just as Gordon did the same to elevate an OSU team with soft spots all over their lineup. He did so by running furiously.

Gordon ran like he was angry he had to make his own holes, or angry at the three-game slight to start the season, or angry he had to keep scoring touchdowns to save the BYU game and the Cowboys’ trip to Jerry World, or angry at the Sooners for butchering Bedlam history.

“We have to kill the engine,” OU cornerback Woodi Washington said in reference to Gordon the week of that game. 

The Sooners did not kill the engine. Gordon rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns and the Cowboys won their most important Bedlam ever. I saw that impact firsthand and valued it. 

“He’s got a beautiful smile. He’s got a great personality,” Mike Gundy said last month. “He likes to talk to people.”

I valued that about Gordon, too. 

It’s really fun, when you can handle business with your brothers and you all just keep getting better and better each day as it goes on, you know?” Gordon told reporters while powering OSU’s midseason roll. “I feel playing with them is the best thing ever.”

Understood. I just wish Gordon would have been in New York Saturday night. That would have been pretty cool, too. 

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Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com. Reach out with feedback and/or ideas at [email protected] or (918) 629-6229. Follow him on Twitter at @GuerinEmig and Instagram at @guerin.emig. .

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