If there were any lingering doubts as to Bryce Love's running ability, they were certainly extinguished Saturday night during Stanford's rip-roaring 58-34 victory over visiting UCLA in an entertaining Pac-12 Conference contest.
With the game still very much in doubt midway through the fourth quarter, Love ripped off a 69-yard touchdown run that gave the Cardinal (2-2, 1-1) a 54-34 lead with just under six minutes to play.
The way UCLA junior quarterback Josh Rosen was throwing the football, Stanford needed every score it could get. Cameron Scarlett's 62-yard run that led to his third touchdown of the game was an added bonus.
Stanford's stunning dismantling of the Bruins put it right back into the thick of things in the North Division. Washington and Washington State are two of the four unbeaten teams in the conference and the Cardinal gets a chance at both.
Stanford hosts Arizona State next Saturday at 1 p.m. and the Sun Devils are red hot after rallying to beat Oregon this week, 37-35.
Love finished with 263 yards on 30 carries. Only Christian McCaffrey has rushed for more yardage in a single game. Through four games, Love is averaging 197.5 yards per contest.
"Bryce is one of the best players in America. It's not just statistically, it's the film," Cardinal coach David Shaw said. "You watch him; there's not many guys like him. So, we're four games in, just starting the second quarter of the season. I don't worry about post-season accolades just yet."
Palo Alto grad Keller Chryst was knocked out of the game in the first seven minutes of the game. He was hit by UCLA's Adariu Pickett, who seemed a tad zealous at the time. Ryan Burns replaced Chryst the remainder of the drive.
Pickett was later called for targeting and sent to an early shower. Stanford's Alijah Holder was also called for targeting and sent to his room.
"I'm struggling to understand targeting," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "I was right there for both calls and they were just football plays."
Both were similar in that as they lowered their heads, so too did the offensive players. The two defensive players did not appear to intentionally target the opposing player, it just turned out that way.
"If you dip your head and put your head down and you go head first, you're going to get a flag and you're going to get penalized," Shaw said. "I'm not going to complain at all, not at all. This is where we are in football, high school football, college football, NFL football, if it's close, we should throw the flag, because we have to take the head out of contact."
The extent of Chryst's injury was not addressed by Shaw, who said he'd have to wait and see how long Chryst might be out.
K.J. Costello played most of the game, throwing for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 13-of-19 passing. He also ran for a touchdown.
"K.J. Costello came in and played extremely well for what we asked him to do," Shaw said. "We stayed in the things he was comfortable in, he started a little rough early but played with energy and passion, gave guys chances to make plays on the ball, which was great. Kept drives alive. Scored with his legs."
The redshirt sophomore had a 9-yard touchdown run in the first half then had scoring throws of 15 yards to Trent Irwin and three yards to Dalton Schultz in the second half, the first two of Costello's career.
"The big thing was he just came in and brought so much energy," Love said. "His confidence really exuded through the huddle. He was making all the right reads, making plays, and we saw that and we fed off that. He did an amazing job for sure."
UCLA was poised to go up 20-6 midway through the second quarter. On a third-and-goal play, a Bruins receiver dropped a sure touchdown. Harrison Phillips then blocked the ensuing field goal try and the momentum shifted.
Costello drove Stanford 80 yards in seven plays for the tying score and the defense forced a 3-and-out.
Costello guided Stanford on another successful drive to put the Cardinal ahead, 20-13. Just before half, Holder forced a fumble recovered by Kevin Palma that led to a Jet Toner field goal on the last play of the first half.
"One of the big mantras for our offense is executing your assignment," Love said. "Everybody took it upon their shoulders, when Keller went down, to step up and make plays."