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10 Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 45-13 Victory against Cincinnati

Ollie Gordon does it again.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]


STILLWATER — Ollie Gordon is the best running back in college football.

Gordon’s Oklahoma State squad took it to Cincinnati on Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium, winning 45-13. The Cowboys outscored the Bearcats 35-6 in the second half.

Here are 10 thoughts on the game.

1. Ollie Is Inevitable

I don’t plan on ever switching religions, but the Church of Ollie Gordon sure seems to be miraculous.

Entering Saturday, the most rushing yards this Cincy defense has allowed a single player was the 75 Miami (OH) tailback Brett Gabbert dashed for back on Sept. 16. Gordon finished with 271 on Saturday.

Gordon had just 21 yards in the first quarter and 60 yards at halftime. But then he went nuclear with his 90-yard third quarter and added another 121 in the fourth.

He is a punishing runner. It’s probably easier (still not easy) to tackle him in the first quarter, but not many are going to sign up for four quarters of collisions with that wrecking ball. And he can seemingly beat you in multiple ways. You wanna pop pads? He’ll do that. But if you give him a crease, he’s going to fly through it like a horse out a chute and when he gets to his powerful top speed, good luck catching him. And if you do catch him, you’re probably quite a bit smaller than him so good luck dragging him down.

Gordon is up to 1,087 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in his sophomore season.

For fun, here is a list of rushing leaders against Cincy this year:

Eastern Kentucky — Joshua Carter, 68 yards
Pitt — C’Bo Flemister, 38 yards
Miami (OH) — Brett Gabbert, 75 yards
Oklahoma — Marcus Major, 63 yards
BYU — LJ Martin, 66 yards
Iowa State — Eli Sanders, 52 yards
Baylor — Dominic Richardson, 37 yards
Oklahoma State — Ollie Gordon, 271 yards

One of these is not like the others.

2. Hello, Leon Johnson III

The country roads of West Virginia decimated OSU’s receiving depth — or so we all thought.

Division-III transfer Leon Johnson III got his first real action as a Cowboy on Saturday and finished with five catches for 149 yards. That’s the most amount of receiving yards an OSU player has had this season, and it came in the first game Johnson had a catch in this year.

For what felt like the first time this season (or maybe in a few seasons), OSU had a deep threat. Johnson had receptions of 67 yards, 23 yards and 43 yards — often just running a go route before using his 6-foot-5 frame to jump up and catch the ball over a smaller defender.

It looked as if Johnson was on track to redshirt in his first season at the Division-I level, but that was his fourth game of the year, meaning if he plays another game, that redshirt will be gone.

3. Dunn Hammers Cincy in the Second Half

The first half of this game looked like the weather — dreary. But then Kasey Dunn got the blow torch out to the tune of 35 second-half points.

After nearly a year of not scoring 30 points in a game, Dunn’s offense is averaging 44 in the past three games. Sure, Gordon has a lot to do with that, but even through the curveballs of injuries at left guard and wide receiver, the Cowboys’ offense has just continued to roll.

And it didn’t come easy Saturday. The Cowboys had 83 yards of total offense in the first quarter but just kept getting better. They had to tinker and adjust a bit to get to the 601 yards of total offense they finished with — a new season high.

4. Pokes’ Defense Locks Cincy down Aside from a Few Big Plays

Cincinnati’s offense had a 53-yard pass play and a 63-yard rush in the first quarter. Outside of those two plays, the Bearcats mustered just 326 yards of total offense.

This youthfilled defense is going to give up a shot play or two a game, but holding a team to 13 points will certainly do.

Emory Jones, a high-level recruit back in his day, finished just 6-for-16 with 117 passing yards and an interception. 

The Bearcats were able to run for 5.5 yards a carry, but that number drops to 4.3 if you take out the 63-yarder. And if you’re able to keep teams off the scoreboard, they aren’t going to be able to run a ton.

The Cowboys’ D had given up 29 points a game during OSU’s wins against Kansas State, Kansas and West Virginia. If Bryan Nardo’s group can play like it did Saturday and pair that with the offensive renaissance of recent weeks, the Pokes are going to be just fine.

5. But This Defensive Backfield Is Going to Be Special

Cameron Epps, a redshirt freshman, is up to three interceptions this season. Here is a list of freshmen with at least three interceptions in a season the past 10 years of OSU football:

Epps — three (so far) in 2023
Kendal Daniels — three in 2022
Ramon Richards — three in 2014

Two of those guys share a defensive backfield. The other was a solid player at OSU and an underrated talk show host.

And as good as Epps has been at forcing turnovers, redshirt freshman corner D.J. McKinney has been just as solid. He had a big pass breakup on a fourth down in the third quarter when the game was still within reach for the Bearcats – – just like he did last weekend in Morgantown.

Corners coach Tim Duffie and safeties coach Dan Hammerschmidt have kept the cupboard full despite losing stellar players to the NFL and the transfer portal over the past few seasons.

6. And Nickolas Martin Just Keeps Tackling

Nickolas Martin had 12 tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry, and it sort of just felt like business as usual.

He is up to 83 tackles this season. For reference, Jason Taylor led OSU with 99 tackles last season. Malcolm Rodriguez had 129 tackles in 2021. Martin is on pace for 124.5 tackles by the end of the regular season. But Martin has averaged 13.75 tackles a game during OSU’s four-game winning streak. If he keeps that pace up for the rest of the year, he finishes with 138 tackles.

When OSU snagged Tulsa transfer Justin Wright out of the portal, I assumed he was the Cowboys’ starting middle linebacker this year. But even when Wright was healthy, it looked as if Martin was going to get the lionshare of the reps. It feels like he came out of nowhere.

On a defense that includes Kendal Daniels and Collin Oliver — two bonafide superstars — Martin might be the best player on the field.

7. Tight End Touchdown

Josiah Johnson opened this game’s scoring with a 29-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

He became the first OSU tight end to record a touchdown catch since the position group ditched the Cowboy Back moniker, and it was Johnson’s first receiving touchdown since he had one against Maine for UMass on Nov. 13, 2021.

After a rocky start (particularly run blocking), Johnson has developed quickly over the past month or so. On the year, he is up to 12 catches for 112 yards and the touchdown. If OSU’s receiving corps. continues to be banged up, maybe Johnson will keep getting involved in the passing game.

8. Bowman Threw Some Beauties in the Damp Conditions

Alan Bowman missed some throws Saturday — the one that stands out the most was a wide open Rashod Owens on the OSU sideline. But Bowman also zipped some dots.

His touchdown to Johnson came with pressure in his face as he was falling away. But his touchdown to Brennan Presley in the third quarter elicited nearly all of Boone Pickens Stadium to gasp as it looped over the defensive back’s head and into Presley’s arms.

He did have an interception — one that hit Presley in both hands — but with a depleted receiving corps. in wet conditions, 286 yards and two touchdowns was a solid, solid day.

9. The Bowl Streak Lives

The reports of the bowl streak’s death have been greatly exaggerated. 

The Cowboys are going back to the postseason — even after scoring only seven points to South Alabama at home. Make it 18 straight years the Cowboys have played an extra game and perhaps, more importantly, gotten the extra practices that go with that game.

The turnaround has been astonishing. The OSU coaching staff deserves a ton of credit for that. 

The bowl streak helps define OSU football in this Mike Gundy era. It’s a standard of excellence. It’s an inarguable point that Oklahoma State is among the best football programs in the country, no matter the helmet sticker (and OSU had a sexy helmet sticker Saturday).

10. Bedlam Awaits

This week is going to bring with it a wave of emotions.

Not only is it the last Bedlam football game to be scheduled for the time being, but it has somehow gotten to the point where it feels like OSU has a real shot to send the Sooners to the SEC with a series-ending L. 

After beating Texas, OU has looked rocky. The Sooners messed around with a UCF team that still hasn’t won a Big 12 game before going up to Lawrence and granting the Jayhawks bowl eligibility. 

In September, it looked as if this rivalry was going to go out on a dud when the Sooners were a College Football Playoff contender and the Cowboys were getting rolled at home to South Alabama. But next Saturday, anything seems possible, and it looks like this series could end on another all-time classic.

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