It’s safe to say the Arizona State football team isn’t ‘feeling the Love’ today. Not after what Stanford’s one-man wrecking crew did to them last night.
Bryce Love ran almost at will against the Sun Devil defense on the way to a 34-24 Stanford victory, and a new school single-game rushing record. The junior running back carried the ball 25 times in yesterday afternoon’s game at Stanford and averaged 12.1 yards a carry.
ASU’s inability to contain the nation’s rushing leader was the first question thrown at ASU head coach Todd Graham at the presser following the game. Graham had a simple answer: “The guy’s really hard to tackle.
“Every play that he broke, we had somebody there – unblocked – and couldn’t tackle him. So you have to give him a lot of credit. He’s just very, very good.”
With 4:11 still left to play in the game, Love picked up a first down that gave him 294 yards and that broke the old school record of 284 yards that was set by Heisman contender Christian McCaffrey. For the past two seasons, Love was the back-up for McCaffrey, contributing seven yards a carry over that period.
Since Love has been averaging at least 160 rushing yards a game over the first five contests, he’s on pace to pass Barry Sanders, who set the current NCAA single-season record with 2,628 yards. He has 1,088 yards so far.
The Sun Devils realized early what they were up against with Love running the ball. By halftime, Love had already accumulated 159 yards.
And once he broke free on a run, there was little the Devil defense could do to keep him from the goal line. Love scored on runs of 61, 43, and 59 yards. His 61-yard scamper into the end zone came on the fourth play of the game, setting the Devils back on their heels early.
But despite Love’s dominance in the ground game, ASU just kept doing what it had to do to stay in the game.
Stanford’s defense did a good job of keeping the lid on the deep ball, but ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins managed to use the pass to put the Devils in position to score, completing 15 attempts for 181 yards.
ASU picked up another 14 yards through the air, but it was wide receiver N’Keal Harry who accounted for the extra yards. Lined up in the team’s Sparky formation, Harry took a direct snap from center and tossed a 14-yard touchdown strike to tight end, Ceejhay French-Love, for the Devils’ second score just before halftime.
The Devils’ run game was a committee project this game, as three different runners contributed to a season-best 214 team rushing yards. Demario Richard led the way with 84 yards, followed by 65 from Kyle Williams and 60 from Kalen Ballage.
The Sun Devils looked like a team that was going to be able to beat Stanford when they marched down the field 75 yards on 14 plays for their first of score of the game, and then trailed by just one score, 24-17, going into intermission. Richard was the key to that drive, picking up 48 of the 75 yards.
But a sluggish third quarter in which the Devils rushed for just 30 yards and one first down took away the momentum they had built going into the half and put them down 31-17 going into the fourth quarter.
A final show of resilience in the fourth showed that ASU was still in the game. Wilkins directed a 10-play drive that covered 86 yards, culminating with a two-yard burst into the end zone by Richard, closing the gap to 31-24 with eight minutes left to play. But the only scoring after that was a Stanford field goal with 2:26 left on the clock.
The Sun Devils have a bye week now to prepare to host the defending Pac-12 champion Washington Huskies, also the No. 6-ranked team in the nation, on Oct. 14.
Those extra practices will give them some additional time to work on tackling fundamentals.