Since David Shaw joined the Stanford coaching staff in 2007, he’s seen a number of talented running backs come through the program.
Toby Gerhart (2009) and Christian McCaffrey (2015) each finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting. Stepfan Taylor (2009-12) set the school record for career rushing yards, and Tyler Gaffney ran for 1,709 yards in 2013.
Yet, somehow, Shaw nearly found himself at a loss for words after watching Bryce Love break the single-game school record for rushing yards (301) in the Cardinal’s 34-24 win against Arizona State on Saturday.
“Never seen anything like that. Ever,” Shaw said. “It was unbelievable.”
As he stood at the podium after the game, Shaw took a moment to rack his brain and try to come up with something that compared to what Love had just accomplished.
“I was with Jamal Lewis with the Baltimore Ravens, the guys that we have had here,” he said. “I’m not saying he’s the best one who's been through here -- I’m not starting that argument -- but at the same time, I’ve never seen anything like what happened [Saturday]. It was unbelievable.”
On its own, Love’s record-breaking performance was undoubtedly impressive, but his five-game stretch to open the season is truly staggering. His 1,088 rushing yards are the fourth-most all time in FBS history through five games and the most since Northern Illinois’ Garrett Wolfe set the bar with 1,181 in 2006.
When Barry Sanders set the FBS single-season rushing record in 1988 at Oklahoma State, he had 1,002 yards rushing through five games and averaged 7.7 yards per carry. To this point, Love is averaging 11.1 YPC.
In Stanford’s first 1,254 games in its football-playing history, it had a 250-yard rusher just once. Love has passed that mark in each of the past two games.
Not only is Love the first running back in the Pac-12 since Reggie Bush (2005) to have back-to-back 260-plus-yard rushing games, but he’s the only one since Bush to have two such games in his college career.
On his seven touchdown runs, Love has averaged 51.7 yards per carry, and only one of them (a 10-yard score) was shorter than 43 yards. On touchdown runs alone, he’s averaging 84.2 rushing yards per game, which is more than six FBS teams average rushing in total per game.
His nine longest carries of the season add up to 520 yards -- more than 24 FBS teams have rushed for all season.
At 3-2, the Cardinal have some work to do to climb back into the Pac-12 race. But if Love continues at this pace, he’ll play a prominent role in the Heisman Trophy conversation.