STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Ollie Gordon II channeled Barry Sanders on his final run last Saturday against BYU –- the one that ultimately propelled Oklahoma State into the Big 12 Championship Game.
In the second overtime, he took a handoff, darted left and shrugged off a defender before reversing field. He then launched himself over two BYU players into the end zone to provide the 40-34 margin.
It was the kind of electrifying run that Sanders, Oklahoma State’s 1988 Heisman Trophy winner, was known for.
Gordon’s similarities to Sanders didn’t end there last Saturday. He ran for five touchdowns against BYU –- tying the school record Sanders reached three times in 1988. He ran for 282 yards against West Virginia and 271 against Cincinnati –- becoming the first Cowboy to rush for at least 250 yards in consecutive weeks since, again, Sanders in 1988.
Gordon is in awe whenever he achieves something Sanders accomplished.
“It’s definitely a huge thing, especially coming here, being at Oklahoma State,” Gordon said. “Barry Sanders — big name around here. Everybody knows who he is. Barry Sanders is Oklahoma State, you know what I’m saying? That’s a guy that — he’ll forever be remembered at Oklahoma State. So it’s really huge being in the same category as him, honestly.”
Gordon had just 19 carries for 109 yards through three games before breaking out. Now, he leads the nation with 1,580 yards rushing and ranks second with 20 rushing scores heading into Saturday’s Big 12 title game against No. 7 Texas.
Gordon is one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation’s best running back. The Longhorns’ College Football Playoff hopes could hinge on whether they can slow the 6-foot-1, 211-pound bruiser.
“Ollie Gordon’s a heck of a player,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “They have done a great job offensively of leaning into him. He really signifies who their team is.”
Gordon combines elements of two of his favorite backs — he runs with force and power like Derrick Henry, yet has smoothness, patience and a long stride like Le’Veon Bell. His ability to change direction is elite for a back his size.
“He’s a really impressive back,” Texas linebacker David Gbenda said. “A big back with good vision, good cuts. He can take the ball anywhere. When he sees it (a space), he’s going to take it wherever he wants to go. We can’t give him too much.”
Gordon never carried more than 17 times in a game his freshman season. This season, he has reset his career high for rushing attempts five times. He had 16 carries for 72 yards and four touchdowns after the third quarter against BYU and had a career-high 34 carries in the game.
“I feel like he gets stronger as the game goes on, like a lot of big physical backs do,” Sarkisian said. “A lot of his best runs come in the second half when teams wear down. He has the hard yards, the tough yards between the tackles, but yet he has the big-play ability to make those long runs.”
Gordon also has good hands. He caught six passes for 116 yards in a win over Kansas. He ran for 168 yards that day, starting a run of three straight games with at least 250 yards from scrimmage. He is the only FBS player in the past 10 years to accomplish the feat.
Though best known for his power, Gordon he has broken off several long runs, including a 75-yarder for a touchdown against Cincinnati. He said his blockers have opened things up for him.
“Seeing my line dominate blocks, my tight ends, fullbacks dominate blocks — it’s just a great sight to see,” Gordon said. “And that’s what really allows us to have so many carries a game. We pride ourselves on hard-fought, downhill football.”
For all the attention Gordon draws, Oklahoma State’s offensive success comes from a balanced attack. Quarterback Alan Bowman, a transfer from Michigan, has passed for 2,808 yards. Brennan Presley has 76 catches for 746 yards and five touchdowns, and he has rushed for two more scores. Rashod Owens has 49 catches for 646 yards, and Leon Johnson III has 27 catches for 446 yards, all in the past five games.
Gordon said offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn has made the offense work.
“He’s a great guy, great coach,” Gordon said. “Coach Dunn — he’s a real people person, but he will keep it 100 with you. I feel like we’ve all grown together over this year just having new pieces. I mean, we have a new starting quarterback. We have some young guys playing in the rotation. But coach Dunn just had to find his way to trust us. And I feel like with us handling business as we have been, it’s given him more ways to open up playbooks and just trust us with certain situations.”
AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.
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