Bryce Love runs all over Sparky in Cardinal win

Photo Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images – Zimbio

Arizona State (2-3, 1-1) missed tackles and was unable to control the line of scrimmage in a 34-24 loss to Stanford (3-2, 1-1) on Saturday afternoon in Palo Alto, Calif on a record setting day for Bryce Love.

Running back Love’s third touchdown of the game came on a 59-yard touchdown run to give Stanford a 31-17 lead midway through the third quarter. It was his third explosive run of the game and it gave Stanford a seemingly insurmountable lead with how well the Cardinal defense started played at the beginning of the second half, as they shut down ASU on its next drive.

Fortunately for Todd Graham’s squad, Sparky’s offense would start to click midway through the fourth quarter when quarterback Manny Wilkins would hit Jalen Harvey, in stride, for 43-yards to get ASU on the Cardinal’s side of the 50. The Cardinal would get a sack on the next play, but that wouldn’t rattle Wilkins as he’d find Ryan Jenkins to get Arizona State into a third and manageable situation, before N’Keal Harry would pick up the first down on a six-yard carry. The offense would quickly move to the Cardinal’s two yard line, aided by defensive pass interference, when Demario Richard would punch it into the end zone.

Following Richard’s touchdown, Stanford’s offense would take over with a little over eight minutes left in the game; the Cardinal would chew through nearly six minutes of that clock on 11 plays before kicking a 22-yard field give Stanford a 34-21 lead. During that drive, Love would rewrite the Stanford single game rushing record. The sophomore tailback would finish the game with 301 yards on 25 carries.

On the ensuing drive, Stanford had stopped the Sun Devils on fourth and ten…but a facemask call extended their drive. But they were unable to punch the ball into the end zone or connect a field goal on their final possession.

Out of the gates in the second half, both squads swapped four and outs as both defenses plugged the running lanes. Neither Costello nor Wilkins were able to find receivers past the sticks on third down, and both squads were forced to punt.

The Sun Devils quickly turned this ball game into a track meet with an efficient eight play, 75-yard drive that was extended thanks to a personal foul on Ben Edwards (facemask). Harry lined up behind center in the Sparky formation and started to run towards the line of scrimmage before pulling up and hitting a wide open Ceejhay French-Love near the goal line to get ASU within four points nearing halftime. 

On the ensuing Stanford drive — which started at the Cardinal 35 thanks to the kick off bouncing out of bound — the Cardinal were stuffed on ASU’s midfield but Arcethe rega-Whiteside came down with the ball despite pass interference from redshirt freshman defensive back Chase Lucas — Whiteside hit his head heard on the turf as he came down with the ball, the training staff took his helmet during halftime and he was done for the day. Whiteside’s catch put Stanford on the Arizona State’s four-yard line, but the Cardinal weren’t able to punch it into the end zone on two plays; so Shaw sent out his field goal unit with four seconds left to give Stanford a 24-17 lead heading into the half.

Sophomore quarterback KJ Costello would take advantage of the Cardinal’s aggressive running game on a beautiful play action pass that would hit Arcega-Whiteside on a corner route for a 12-yard touchdown to extend the Cardinal lead to 11 points. Stanford’s offense marched right down the field thanks to two big runs by Love (39-yards then 15-yards) and some poor tackling by ASU. It was a quick response to a physically imposing touchdown drive by the Sun Devils on the preceding possession.

Richard would power his way into the end zone on second and goal to score ASU’s first touchdown of the game, which narrowed Stanford’s lead to 14-10 with seven and half minutes left to half time. The three-yard touchdown came at the end of a physically dominating drive for Arizona State that was dominated by a powerful run game that consistently picked up four and seven yards per carry; while Richard scored the touchdown, Ballage did most of the work during the 14-play drive…especially out of the Sparky formation.

Arizona State would have an apparent touchdown overturned when it was ruled that the Harry was down at the 19-yard line; fortunately for the Sun Devils, a Stanford defender had jumped off sides to get them to the Cardinal 15-yard line. Unfortunately for ASU, they’d get stuffed by the aggressive front seven that hit Richard for a four yard loss than sack Wilkins for a loss of eight yards to force Sparky into third and goal at the Stanford 22-yard line. After an eight-yard run by Ballage on third down, Ruiz would nail the 32-yard field goal attempt for ASU’s first points of the game.

Love’s second of the touchdown of the game came on Stanford’s drive immediately following ASU’s field goal. In fact, his touchdown came on the Cardinal’s second play from scrimmage after it as the sophomore ripped off a 43-yard run to give Stanford a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter. The touchdown run gave Love 105 yards on the ground on five carries…well before halftime.

Stanford would strike first when the Cardinal essentially ran out their goal line set, without any wide receivers, at their 39-yard line and then handed the ball off to Love. The junior tailback hit the hole opened up by his offensive line and never looked back on a 61-yard dash to the end zone.

Love’s touchdown run came on Stanford’s first drive of the game and it demonstrated that this was going to be a tough, physical game on the Farm from the opening gun.

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