STANFORD, Calif. — On a record-setting day for Bryce Love, Stanford coach David Shaw had a difficult time deciding which of the junior running back’s runs was his favorite.
There was the 61-yard touchdown in the first quarter on Love’s second carry of the afternoon, followed up not long after by a 43-yard score in the second. Or the 59-yard burst through the middle in the third.
“Take your pick,” Shaw said. “I’ve never seen anything like that, ever.”
Shaw isn’t alone.
No player in Stanford history has ever had the type of day that Love did on Saturday when he set a single-game school record for 301 yards rushing and three touchdowns to help the Cardinal beat Arizona State 34-24.
Love entered the day leading the nation in rushing and padded his total with another big day on the ground. Stanford’s junior running back had scoring runs of 61, 43 and 59 yards. He has 1,088 yards overall this season, the third player since 2004 to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in his team’s first five games.
“I’m not saying he’s the best one that’s been through here, I’m not starting that argument,” Shaw said. “But at the same time I’ve never seen anything like what happened today. That was unbelievable.”
Love repeatedly gouged the Sun Devils for big gains but did some of his best running late after Arizona State pulled within 31-24 following Demario Richard’s second touchdown, a 2-yard run, with 8:02 remaining.
Love, who broke Christian McCaffrey’s year-old record of 284 yards, helped Stanford secure the win with a series of clock-draining runs that set up Jet Toner’s 22-yard field goal.
“I’m definitely not the biggest guy out there and it’s easy to overlook it I feel like,” Love said. “But I take pride in being able to go out there and make those type of plays and being able to pick up the yards after contact.”
Arizona State coach Todd Graham lamented his team’s inability to stop Love.
“On every play he broke we had someone there unblocked,” Graham said. “Give him credit. He’s a real special guy.”
K.J. Costello, who came off the bench to lead Stanford past UCLA a week ago after starter Keller Chryst was injured, completed 15 of 24 passes for 173 yards and one touchdown as the Cardinal (3-2, 2-1 Pac-12) won consecutive games for the first time this season.
Stanford also got a lift from its defense which forced two turnovers and held Arizona State to seven points in the second half, one week after the Sun Devils rallied to upset then-No. 24 Oregon.
Richard finished with 80 yards and two touchdowns for the Sun Devils (2-3, 1-1). Quarterback Manny Wilkins passed for 181 yards but was intercepted twice, ending his school-record streak of 192 attempts without one.
“I played poorly,” Wilkins said. “I’ve got to put us in a better position to score. I made some poor decisions.”
Costello made several key completions in the first start of his college career, none bigger than a 12-yard touchdown pass to JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the second quarter on a perfectly thrown fade. “JJ’s our guy, our go-to guy,” Costello said. “They call them 50-50 balls but in my mind it’s 75-25. The way he goes up and gets that rock is incredible.”
Arizona State: The Sun Devils couldn’t build off the momentum they gained by beating Oregon and missed a chance to secure their spot atop the Pac-12 South standings. Graham’s group did a good job rushing straight at the heart of Stanford’s defense in the first half but got away from it in the second half when they had to play catch-up. The turnovers didn’t help but didn’t hurt as much as the defense’s inability to slow down Love.
Stanford: Shaw’s team has bounced back nicely after losing back-to-back games to San Diego State and Texas Tech. This was a better litmus test for the Cardinal than UCLA, even though the pattern was the same. Love is a major force on the ground but Costello has also provided a big lift at quarterback, something Chryst struggled doing consistently before he got hurt. The defense’s play in the second half was also encouraging.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils return home and will have a week off before hosting No. 6 Washington on Oct. 14.
Stanford: The Cardinal go back on the road to play at No. 20 Utah on Saturday.