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Cincinnati Superlatives: Game MVPs, Top Plays, Numbers that Stood Out and More

On Leon Johnson III, Gundy’s Big 12 wins and bowl streak, and, of course, Ollie Gordon



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

Oklahoma State capped festivities for America’s Greatest Homecoming with a 45-13 win against Cincinnati on Saturday night at Boone Pickens Stadium.

The game featured a slow first half before an explosive second half and another spectacular performance from Ollie Gordon provided plenty of noteworthy numbers.

Here are superlatives from the Cowboys’ fourth straight win before hosting Oklahoma next.

Offensive Player of the Game: Leon Johnson III

Maybe I should rename it as “Offensive Player of the Game That’s Not Named Ollie Gordon.”

It’s not fair to be a player compared to Gordon right now, but on a team without the best running back in the country, Leon Johnson III would be the star Saturday night. With the receiving corps depleted by injury, Johnson got his first start with OSU after transferring from Division-III George Fox, where he played football and baseball.

Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 207-pound senior, was OSU’s leading receiver with five catches for 149 yards. Most of that yardage came from a 67-catch in the second quarter. The most impressive part of Johnson’s stat line was that it’s the first time this season that Johnson put anything on the stat sheet.

Defensive Player of the Game: Nickolas Martin

As wild as it seems, Martin’s numbers have almost been as impressive as Gordon’s on the other side of the ball.

A dip in total tackles for Martin still gave him a team-leading 12 on Saturday night. He also recorded a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.

Ollie Gordon Was Ollie Gordon

No need for offensive player of the game, just an Ollie Gordon update.

Gordon rushed for 271 yards on 25 carries, averaging 10.8 yards a carry (!!) and two touchdowns. He bounced off three Cincy defenders for his first nine-yard touchdown. Gordon’s second touchdown was a 75-yarder on his last carry of the night that put him over 200 rushing yards for the second game in a row.

An impressive stat would be that Gordon has reached the century mark in rushing yards five straight games now, but he’s actually ran for at least 120 yards in all of those performances. Before Saturday, Cincinnati hadn’t allowed a player to rush for 100 yards this season.

With four regular-season games left, Gordon already passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season on Saturday.

Both Gordon’s touchdown runs would be the plays of the game, too. You can watch him be a pinball off Cincy defenders here.

I no longer think I’m absurd for thinking there should be a Heisman campaign for Ollie Gordon.

Offensive Stats that Stood Out: Zero Sacks (Again) and Rushing Numbers

For the second straight week, the OSU offensive linemen kept the opposing defense away from Alan Bowman and didn’t allow a sack. The big guys also allowed only three quarterback hurries and three tackles for loss.

And this was no slouch of a defensive front the Cowboys were facing. Cincinnati was allowing only 100.7 rushing yards a game, but OSU’s big men paved the way for 315 rushing yards — the most the Bearcats have given up since 2017 against Navy.

Bowl Eligibility Streak Reaches 18

After 17 years of an extra football game, a Cowboys’ bowl berth seemed like a guarantee. But it didn’t feel that way in September when OSU was 2-2, and it wasn’t looking like the Cowboys were playing well enough to beat any team ahead.

After a drastic turnaround and four straight wins, though, Saturday’s victory pushed the Pokes to 6-2 and bowl eligibility for the 18th season in a row.

The Cowboys’ 18-year bowl streak is the sixth-longest in the country. On Monday, I’ll take a look on PFB at where and who pundits around the country have OSU for its bowl destination and matchup.

Gundy Passes Mack Brown in Big 12 Wins

Last week, Mike Gundy got even with Mack Brown. A week later, he’s ahead.

OSU’s win Saturday against a brand new conference foe was Gundy’s 99th Big 12 win. That moved him past Brown, who coached at Texas, for sole possession of third place on the list for most Big 12 wins among coaches. Bob Stoops tops the list with 121 wins, followed by Bill Snyder with 104.

A Bedlam win next week would put Gundy at the century mark for Big 12 victories.

Continuing Homecoming Success

Leading up to this homecoming matchup, I wrote about OSU’s success in capping America’s Greatest Homecoming. That trend obviously continued.

The Cowboys have now won three homecoming games in a row and eight of their last nine. OSU’s all-time record in such games since 1920 improved to 58-38-6.

Elijah Wright Debuts

Elijah Wright, son of former OSU great linebacker Kenyatta Wright, made his Cowboy debut Saturday night. Elijah, a redshirt junior, walked on in 2022 after starting his career at Central Oklahoma.

The blowout gave opportunities for others to make career debuts, as well, including Jalen Pope, Cooper Lai, Jack Endean, Viliami Makahununiu, Davis Dotson, Mason Gilkey, Andrew McCall, Landon Dean, Marcus Duckworth and RJ Lester.

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