Love wins the day over visiting Arizona State with breathtaking 301-yard performance

October 5, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 5, 2017

Tailback Bryce Love ran for three touchdowns and an astounding 301 yards and strong safety Justin Reid recorded a pair of interceptions to power Stanford’s football team to a 34-24 home victory over Arizona State on Saturday afternoon.

The game threatened to be a blowout at times, but the home team was never able to push its lead past 17 points thanks to breakdowns on both sides of the ball. Stanford moved to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12, while ASU dropped to 2-3 (1-1).

Love broke Christian McCaffery’s school record of 284 single-game rushing yards, set in November against Cal, and now leads the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision with 1,088 rushing yards on 98 carries. (This season’s No. 2 player, Rashaad Penny of San Diego State, has 265 fewer yards on 18 more runs.) Reid, meanwhile, is nicely positioned to challenge Phil Moffatt’s school record of nine interceptions in a single season, set back in 1930.

The victory was K.J. Costello’s first as a starter, which he got in lieu of the injured Keller Chryst and ahead of fifth-year senior Ryan Burns. The sophomore was efficient but not flashy, completing 15 of 24 pass attempts for 173 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

Stanford needed just four plays to score, when Love jetted through a huge hole and fought off a tackle attempt by senior defensive back Chad Adams for a 61-yard touchdown run. It extended Love’s streak of games with a 50-yard run to seven; he’s the only player to accomplish that feat in the past two decades.

The Cardinal defense forced an ASU punt, thanks in no small part to a third-down sack of Manny Wilkins Jr. by outside linebacker Mike Tyler that pushed the Sun Devils out of field goal range. Arizona State punted, and Costello and company began moving upfield methodically. The series’ most electrifying play was a 31-yard throw to Dalton Schultz. Unfortunately, right after the tight end made the catch, defensive back J’Marcus Rhodes chopped the ball out of his arms and recovered the pigskin at the 2-yard line.

The Devils capitalized with a 12-play, 84-yard drive that ended in a 32-yard Brandon Ruiz field goal.

The Cardinal then went three and out, which led to Reid’s first interception of the game, at the ASU 39-yard line. Costello threw for a short loss, but on second down, it was once more time for Love to shine. The offensive line blocked every possible tackler along the left side of the front and the junior out of Wake Forest ran untouched for a 43-yard score to give the hosts a 14-3 lead.

The visitors responded with a positively Stanfordian series, traveling 75 yards in 14 plays and nearly six minutes on a drive that ended with Demario Richard running for a 3-yard touchdown out of the wildcat. But the Cardinal returned its advantage to 14 points thanks to a 12-yard touchdown pass from Costello to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who led all receiver in the game with four catches for 63 yards.

The Sun Devils came back with another touchdown, this time when wideout N’Keal Harry threw to unguarded tight end C.J. French-Love for a 14-yard score out of the wildcat. The half closed out on the ensuing drive when Jet Toner hit a 21-yard field goal with time expiring to make the score 24-17.

The third quarter began with three punts — two by Arizona State, one by Stanford — before the offense worked some more of its patented Loving magic. The O-line opened up a huge hole off right tackle and the tailback ran through for a 59-yard score. The gain put Love over the millennium mark for rushing yards and gave the hosts a 31-17 lead.

Reid smothered the ensuing Sun Devils possession with his second interception of the afternoon, a pick near midfield. But the Cardinal offense stalled, thanks mainly to a personal foul, and the team punted after a 1-yard loss. The series was otherwise highlighted by a rousing 17-yard run by Jake Bailey, Stanford’s excellent punter, on a fake on fourth down and 3 to go from the Arizona State 45-yard line.

The teams traded punts before the Sun Devils took over two minutes into the fourth quarter. The visitors then drove 85 yards for Richard’s second touchdown of the day, from the 2-yard line. (Richard finished with 80 yards on 22 carries.)

At that point, the home team led by a touchdown and Love had 238 rushing yards, and slightly more than eight minutes were left in the game. “Shawgren” ran the ball exclusively, calling on Love eight times and Cameron Scarlett four times. The feature back covered seven or more yards on six of his runs, including a 31-yarder, and the Sun Devils burned two timeouts before Toner came on to make a 22-yard kick.

That left Arizona State only 2:19 in which to make up a two-score deficit. The Sun Devils clawed their way to the Cardinal 41-yard line, thanks in part to a face mask called on Stanford all-conference defensive tackle Harrison Phillips on what otherwise would have been an incomplete fourth-down pass. Coach Todd Graham elected to try a 59-yard field goal, which would have been prelude to an onside kick recovery, but Ruiz’s attempt was off-target, and the Cardinal was able to kneel once to claim a 34-24 victory.

Other than Love’s record-setting day — 301 yards on 25 attempts, an average of nearly 12 yards per carry — the Cardinal weren’t exactly world-beaters on offense. Likewise, the defense was only adequate, allowing 409 yards. The team will likely need to be much more efficient to come away from Saturday night’s game at Utah with a victory.

But a win’s a win, and if this one wasn’t as dominating as it could have been, neither was it an excruciatingly close scrape. I’ll take it, and happily!

~~~

Helpful links

ASU-Stanford box score — ESPN
ASU-Stanford team statistics
ASU-Stanford play-by-play
ASU-Stanford interactive box score — GoStanford.com
ASU-Stanford static box score
Stanford 2017–18 football roster
Arizona State 2017–18 football roster

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