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Oklahoma State braces for unknown vs. Texas A&M in Texas Bowl

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Texas A&M knows what it’s up against in the Texas Bowl on Wednesday night in Houston.

No. 20 Oklahoma State’s not so sure what it’s facing.

The biggest challenge for the Aggies (7-5) will be trying to slow down Ollie Gordon II, the nation’s leading rusher and the winner of the Doak Walker Award.

“He is elite. He won the Doak Walker for a reason,” Texas A&M interim head coach Elijah Robinson said of Gordon, who has rushed for 1,614 yards and 20 touchdowns and caught 37 passes for 326 yards and a touchdown this season.

“He’s a patient runner. He’s getting downhill. The offensive line is also elite. They’re tough, they finish blocks.”

The Aggies’ challenge is complicated by the dramatic transition the program is undergoing. Robinson, who has served as interim head coach since Jimbo Fisher was fired Nov. 12, has accepted the job as defensive coordinator on Fran Brown’s staff at Syracuse and has been juggling his current task and his new one.

Robinson said he made it clear to Syracuse when he interviewed that he had a job to finish at A&M.

“I told them that it was important that I finish through the bowl game,” he said. “There were days that we weren’t practicing that I had to go on the road and recruit (for the Orange). There were days when I had to get back in town for practice. No way and no how did I short A&M in preparation for these kids.”

Offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino has moved on to become offensive coordinator at Arkansas, and more than a dozen Aggies won’t participate in the bowl game because they either have entered the transfer portal or started focusing on the NFL draft.

Texas A&M has gone 1-1 under Robinson and 2-1 in Jaylen Henderson’s starts at quarterback.

“Our whole mindset is to finish with a win no matter who’s playing and who’s not playing,” Henderson said. “(Robinson) kept things stable. He’s done a great job fulfilling his commitment here and we want to do the same.”

The changes among the Aggies also complicate things for Oklahoma State (9-4) in its preparation.

“They were different at the end of the year when Jimbo wasn’t there and Petrino was, and then when Petrino wasn’t there,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “So we don’t have any idea what they’re doing.”

The Cowboys believe A&M can’t change schemes dramatically in time for the game.

“They’re going to do what they do,” quarterback Alan Bowman said. “It’s just going to be different numbers playing. So we’ll have to get used to that in the first quarter, see who’s out there for warm-ups.

“It’s going to be interesting to see who’s going to be out there to start the game for them, for sure.”

Gordon said the Cowboys, who lost to Texas 49-21 in the Big 12 championship Dec. 2, have been able to “rejuvenate our bodies.”

“We’re getting back to where we were at the beginning of the season,” Gordon said, “where everybody can be healthy and firing on all cylinders.”

–Field Level Media

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