HOUSTON — Ollie Gordon walked into the postgame interview room in the bowels of NRG Stadium as teammates Rashod Owens and Nick Martin answered a question about him publicly announcing his return to Oklahoma State with a video on Christmas Eve.
The Cowboy tailback stood to the side and listened to them for a few moments, then sat down between Owens and Martin.
“Excuse me,” he said, leaning toward the microphone on the table. “I couldn’t leave my guys. C’mon now. Look at what just happened.
“Rashod Owens? That guy. Nick Martin? That guy. Can’t leave them.”
Owens: “Ollie Gordon? That guy.”
Martin: “We … ”
Gordon: “We them guys.”
On a night the Cowboys capped a bounce-back season by beating Texas A&M 31-23 in the Texas Bowl, there were lots of reasons for optimism. Owens was named the game’s MVP with 10 catches, including a pair of highlight-worthy touchdown catches. Brennan Presley joined the fun with 16 catches as both receivers went over 150 receiving yards. Martin tied Kendal Daniels with a team-high seven tackles, pushing his season total to 140 tackles, the most at OSU in more than four decades.
All of those players are expected to return to Stillwater next season, though Presley has not officially announced his plans.
Still, no player provides more optimism than Gordon.
With his breakout sophomore season, where the nation’s leading rusher would be playing next season became a huge concern among Cowboys everywhere. It was such a big deal that even men’s basketball coach Mike Boynton made a postgame plea a few weeks ago that every donation go to bolstering Gordon’s name-image-likeness package and keeping him at OSU.
Gordon says all the worry was unnecessary.
“I was really never going anywhere,” he said after the Texas Bowl in his first public comments since his Christmas Eve video. “I was coming back the whole time. My whole team’s coming back. My whole line, my receivers, defense.
“I wouldn’t want to play nowhere else or anywhere else where I don’t feel comfortable. … I feel comfortable here.”
“Why would I leave?”
And Gordon’s not shy about what he wants to accomplish next season.
“No. 1, we’ve gotta make playoffs. We’ve gotta make playoffs, New Year’s Six,” he said. “And I feel like the Heisman Trophy has to come back to Stillwater. You know, I just feel like that’s a huge thing.”
The Cowboys’ push for a playoff spot won’t start until next September, but Gordon’s campaign for the Heisman started Wednesday night in Houston. People have already started thinking of him as a candidate, even a frontrunner, so everything matters.
And Gordon got off to a nice start, rushing for 118 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries.
His longest run: 25 yards.
Against Texas A&M, there were no cross-country jaunts. Most of Gordon’s real estate came between the tackles, where the bodies are big, the tacklers are mean and the yards are difficult.
“It was hard for Ollie to run the ball with the way they were playing, inserting an extra guy in the box pretty much the first half and vacating the flats,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said of the Aggies pulling their nickelback down close to the line of scrimmage. “It wasn’t easy based on what they were doing.”
Gordon didn’t seem to mind.
“I’m cool with that,” he said of getting tough yards between the hash marks. “The linebackers are big, but you know, I’m big, too. We can bang it out.”
Big hits were plentiful, and while it prompted some frustration in Gordon — he picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for lashing out at an Aggie defender late in the third quarter — there had to be way more frustration on the Texas A&M sideline about him. The Aggies did a good job on Gordon, and still, he gained more yards against them than Alabama (67 rushing yards), Tennessee (54) or LSU (96).
Cowboy offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn says Gordon possesses skills that make him tough to tackle even in confined spaces close to the line of scrimmage.
“He does a good job of slicing through the gaps,” Dunn said. “Then he’s just long enough and kind of strange enough to tackle in those spots, he slithers through and then he can just bust it and hit it.”
Gordon didn’t bust many big ones Wednesday, but against an SEC defense in the spotlight that bowls offer, he had plenty of put-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat runs. Moments when the defense was grasping at air. Plays when tackles were broken and cuts were made and open spaces were found and defenders were eluded.
Gordon capped this season with 2,062 all-purpose yards becoming only the fifth player in OSU history to reach the 2,000-yard mark. The others: Terry Miller, 2,009 yards, 1976; Thurman Thomas, 2,130 in 1987; Chuba Hubbard, 2,334 in 2019; and Barry Sanders, 3,526 in 1988.
All of those Cowboy runners were Heisman candidates, and so is Gordon. He fully expects to be in the hunt until the end of next season.
“Yes, I believe it,” he said of why he openly talks about such big goals. “If you look at it, all our receivers come back, our O-line comes back.
“We’re gonna have another great year.”
Oh, and Ollie Gordon comes back.
Yep, that guy.