It was a clear day in Stanford for ASU football's game against the Cardinal, but it was pouring touchdowns from Stanford’s junior running back Bryce Love.
In ASU’s 34-24 loss to the Stanford Cardinal (3-2, 2-1), Love broke Stanford’s single-game rushing record with 301 yards on the ground, not to mention his three rushing touchdowns.
The Sun Devil (2-3, 1-1) defense watched the Cardinal’s top back scurry to the end zone time after time. Senior defensive lineman Tashon Smallwood said Love's dominance was due in part to ASU’s game plan being exploited.
“He’s good at getting in the creases, he’s patient, so as soon as he sees a hole he bursts,” Smallwood said. “I mean it’s different from watching him on film and actually playing against that.”
Love didn’t simply burst through one hole; he had his pick of the litter when it came to exploding through a crease. The gaps were the reason ASU’s defense surrendered touchdown runs of 43, 59 and 61 yards.
“You just got to tackle the guy,” head coach Todd Graham said. “The guy is really hard to tackle. I mean every play that he broke we had someone there, unblocked, and couldn’t tackle him.”
Ultimately, it was not as much the missed tackles as it was the need for three defenders to slow Love down that gassed the Sun Devils' defense.
“At the end of the day we gave up too many big plays in the run game,” Graham said. “You can’t give up that many yards rushing and have a chance, but on the same end we should’ve scored a heck of a lot more than 24 points.”
The 24 points ASU did score came from senior running back Demario Richard and sophomore wide receiver N’Keal Harry.
“I thought we rushed the ball well. I felt good the first half,” Graham said. “I thought man, coming into halftime we're going to get the ball, go down and tie this thing up.”
That did not happen. However, Graham was not wrong in praising his team's rushing attack.
Richard continues to improve his weekly stat totals as he rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. Although Richard’s scores were critical, the talk of ASU’s offense was Harry throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Ceejhay French-Love.
Wilkins completed 15 of his 24 passes, throwing for 181 yards and two interceptions.
“I just gotta put us in a better situation to score points,” Wilkins said. “Obviously I didn’t play my best game, and I didn’t give us an opportunity to win this football game. So I take full accountability for that.”
Despite Wilkins’ lack of production, he was not one the players unable to bring down Love.
It is hard to imagine Sun Devil fans looking at Love’s touchdown runs without having flashbacks to the San Diego State game. Although SDSU’s Rashaad Penny ran all over ASU, Love may be the best tailback ASU has faced.
While that issue may be up for debate, no matter the talk or records Love said he has his eye on the prize.
"I just try to focus on the end zone,” Love said.