In a marquee matchup of American quarterbacks, which likely led fans to expect an aerial game, running back Gino Gordon stole the show with his stellar performance on the ground.
Gordon rushed for 112 yards and scored four touchdowns to guide the Fujitsu Frontiers to their first-ever X League championship with a 44-10 victory over the IBM BigBlue in Monday’s Japan X Bowl.
While the two signal callers — IBM’s Kevin Craft and Fujitsu’s Colby Cameron — were injured in the latter part of the game, the 25-year-old Gordon was the no-brainer choice for Most Valuable Player accolades after the contest.
Gordon, who was the joint-Ivy League player of the year in 2010, when he accumulated 1,059 rushing yards during his senior season with the Harvard University Crimson, said with a smile that this MVP award means as much as the one he earned in Massachusetts.
And he didn’t forget to express his appreciation for the offensive line that’s paved the way for him all year.
“As a running back, you understand that it’s not really about what you do,” said Gordon, who finished his collegiate career as one of the best running backs to have ever played for Harvard, having amassed 2,643 yards and 23 TDs rushing. “Because you can’t be a running back if you don’t have a good offensive line, you’re not going to get many yards.
“But it kind of shows how good of an offensive line we’ve had, how well we really did. I think a running back winning something like this shows that the offense did really well. That’s the most exciting thing about that.”
Able to find the holes between Fujitsu’s well-trained offensive linemen, Gordon got into the end zone four times during the Japan X Bowl. He said that was his personal best in his career.
“The most I’ve had was three against Dartmouth (College) when I had two rushing, one catching,” said Gordon, who was born to a Japanese mother, Fujiko, in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture. “But as far as the most touchdowns I’ve ever had, I was glad I was able to show up at the right time. This is a big game and it’s nice to do well.”
Coming out of a school like Harvard, with such a highly acclaimed reputation in academics, maybe the option to come to Japan and play football semi-professionally wouldn’t be so attractive to the average American.
But Gordon, who ran for 437 yards and had three rushing TDs in the eight games before the X Bowl this season (he missed in the team’s season opener), feels that taking that chance has paid off.
“It was a very good choice to come over here and share my knowledge, and even learn from other people,” said Gordon, who joined Fujitsu last year. “I think this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, just because I love the sport. I know that I can add something to the league.
“I’m really glad and it’s been a good learning experience to be here and see everything. I learn a lot from Colby Cameron, that guy’s a really, really smart dude, and a really good player. He’s darn good.”
Gordon and the rest of the Frontiers, meanwhile, are not going to let their guard down because they’ve got one more battle left before wrapping up the season: the Rice Bowl, against the collegiate champion Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters.
The real national champions are considered to be the winners of that Jan. 3 game at Tokyo Dome.
“Today’s a good day to celebrate,” Gordon grinned. “But tomorrow, it’s a day to get ready.”