Do you know Bryce Love?
You may know Saquon Barkley, the now-obvious Heisman front-runner who has terrorized Penn State’s opponents with an unparalleled blend of strength and speed.
But do you know Bryce Love?
You may know J.K. Dobbins, whose Ohio State pedigree and first game outburst against Indiana originally thrust him into the college football spotlight. You may even know Georgia’s Nick Chubb, who on Saturday against Tennessee had 16 carries for 109 yards, or Royce Freeman, the speedy Oregon running back who has thrived early this season.
Let me tell you about Bryce Love. The Bryce Love that just made history.
Against Arizona State on Saturday, Love ran for 301 yards on only 25 carries, breaking Christian McCaffrey’s school record for most rushing yards in a game where he also had three touchdowns. Already he’s crossed the 1,000-yard mark in just four games this season, totaling 1,088 yards on just 98 carries. That’s over 11 yards a carry. Folks, that’s not normal.
In the Cardinal’s 34-24 win over Arizona State, Love torched through the Sun Devil defense for a cool 61-yard run on the game’s opening drive. We’ll call that the warm-up.
The junior back ripped off a 43-yard touchdown run and a 39-yard run, while sprinkling in runs of 15, 18, and 31 yards. His most notable endeavor came when he unraveled for 59 yards on his way to the end zone for a score that all but sealed Stanford’s win.
Bryce Love today has a 61-yard TD, a 43-yard TD and now this 59-yard TD. pic.twitter.com/Tcoht5RrNR— Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 30, 2017
On multiple drives throughout the game, Stanford tried to rely on quarterback K.J. Costello to lead them downfield (it rarely worked). Late in the second quarter, with the Cardinal inside the Arizona State 5-yard line, head coach David Shaw opted for doomed end zone fades instead of handing the ball off to Love. I can’t even imagine what Love’s stat line would have been had he gotten say, 30 carries instead of just 25.
Through five games, Love has more rushing yards than any single player since 2006. A week ago against UCLA, Love amassed 264 on the ground. Before that, he put up a pair of 180-yard games against Rice and San Diego State. I was there when he gashed USC for 160 yards at the Coliseum, a performance spearheaded by a 75-yard score and one that seemed effortless, even in defeat. Who knew that would end up being Love’s worst performance of the season so far?
In 4.5 games this year, Bryce Love has six rushes of 50+ yards. Only 10 FBS players since 2004 finished with more in an entire season.— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) September 30, 2017
In a season where Stanford doesn’t truly have a quarterback and was banking on Love to replace McCaffrey—as impossible as that was—the junior back has been stellar in carrying the Cardinal. Love has fit Stanford’s ground-and-pound identity to a T; on top of that, he’s built on the way they win games—strong line play—and parlayed that with his speed in order to fuel his long runs. We can still call it the McCaffrey Recipe, but now it’s got a powerful new ingredient.
Stanford already has two losses this season: one to USC and an upset at the hands of SDSU. The playoff feels out of the question at this point, and the road in the Pac-12 North doesn’t look easy with both Washington State and Washington on the horizon. Love, however, is keeping them relevant—if he’s able to keep this pace, he’ll rise above whatever record the Cardinal hold on his way to the Heisman ceremony in New York.
Before this season, Love was not an unknown, but he wasn’t in the limelight. After Saturday, the spotlight may be finally be catching up with his feet.