The Stanford football program officially unveiled a #HeismanLove campaign for its electric junior running back. The student section hoisted Bryce Love cutouts, and he didn't disappoint.
On Love's first carry, he darted 34 yards, then capped the opening drive with a 5-yard touchdown run, bouncing off a tackler to score standing up. On the next possession, he found a small seam off left tackle and sprinted 67 yards for a score.
"Bryce was great in the first half," said Stanford coach David Shaw. "He got banged up and there was no reason for us to put him back in with the score the way it was."
Even in limited action, Love remains the national rushing leader with 1,387 yards, nearly 300 more than his closest pursuer. He also ranks first in yards per game (198.1) and yards per carry (10.27), second in all-purpose yards (200.86) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (11).
Halloween arrived early Saturday night at Stanford Stadium.
The No. 23 Cardinal (5-2, 4-1 Pac-12) cruised to its fourth straight victory by overwhelming Oregon, 49-7, the largest margin of victory for Stanford since the series began in 1900. But it was a strange evening.
• Late in the first quarter, a rabbit ran onto the gridiron and raced the length of the field into the north end zone, prompting the Stanford band to play "All Right Now."
• Keller Chryst, Ryan Burns, K.J. Costello and Jay Tyler all played quarterback in the first half. Okay, a slight stretch. Tyler, a wide receiver, threw off a reverse and hit Burns for a 16-yard completion.
• All three completed passes before an Oregon quarterback.
• The second quarter started at 9 p.m., or midnight on the East Coast. By then, junior Bryce Love had already rushed for a 136 yards and two touchdowns.
• Special teams ace Curtis Robinson blocked an Oregon punt and Brandon Simmons returned it for a 2-yard touchdown, a first by the Cardinal since 2008 against TCU.
• Leading 28-7 in the closing 30 seconds of the first half, Chryst fired a short slant pass to usually sure-handed JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who had contributed several nice grabs, including a 3-yard scoring catch. But he juggled the ball in the end zone and Duck defender Deommdore Lenoir intercepted for a touchback. Arecga-Whiteside quickly redeemed himself in the third quarter with a diving 12-yard touchdown catch from Chryst in the same end zone. He wound up with six receptions for 112 yards.
• "It's homecoming and we were in the black uniforms," said junior cornerback Quenton Meeks. "Friday the 13th was just yesterday. One of the Oregon players asked me if this (rabbit) happens often. I said they're all over campus but I've never seen one come on the field. It lightened the mood."
With previously unbeaten Washington and Washington State losing during the weekend, Stanford has climbed into first place in the Pac-12 North Division.
Not that anyone is looking ahead.
"It doesn't matter what anybody else does if we aren't winning," said Meeks. "We can't look at other scores and go, 'Let's get excited.' Our focus is we have to go 1-0 every week."
Robinson had a big game, also collecting a team-high seven tackles. One was a punishing blow on a kickoff return.
As for blocking the punt, he noticed an Oregon tendency in film study and exploited it.
"I knew as soon as they widened out it was going to be disrupted or blocked," said Robinson. "I just put my head down and prayed for the best."
For the fourth consecutive game, the Cardinal defense intercepted multiple passes. Junior outside linebacker Casey Toohill joined the club by making a leaping grab against the Ducks, the first of his career.
"You know, I think it was a lot of luck," Toohill said. "I had seen a similar play in practice Friday, where I dropped it. I had to go up and get it, so I kind of made a note of that. I thought, 'If I get another chance, I'm not going to drop it.' "
Meeks also picked off a pass for the second straight game.
"They showed that look on film," he said. "I actually told my outside linebacker if they show that release, that route is going to come. I was just reading the quarterback's eyes. Once he threw it, it was my ball and I just went to get it."
Chryst started at quarterback and played arguably the best game of his career. He completed 15 of 21 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns. More impressively, he was efficient, displayed good touch, and made Oregon pay for crowding the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
"Story of the game," said Shaw. "He was so composed. Handled all the protections and the running game, and made big-time throws."
Even without starting freshman left tackle Walker Little, a late scratch, the offensive line helped the Cardinal to rush for 248 yards and it did not allow a sack for the fourth game in a row.
"We kind of went back to basics with our pass protection and it has worked wonders," senior center Jesse Burkett said.
Sophomore Devery Hamilton filled in for Little, but got nicked early, forcing Mike Bloomgren, Stanford's offense coordinator, to adjust.
"Coach Bloomgren did a phenomenal job with those guys," Shaw said. "Didn't matter who was in, those guys played really well."
Burns had never caught a pass in a game on any level prior to Saturday night. The team has been practicing the play for three weeks and installed it Tuesday.
"I've always had a coupled plays designed for it but they always got broken up," said Burns. "Coach Shaw said it was more of a feel call, so I guess he was feeling it. It was a little easier in practice because nobody was around me. It was fun."
Stanford has a bye next week. The team returns to action Oct. 26 at Oregon State at 6 p.m. PT. The game will be televised by ESPN.
The Beavers (1-6, 0-4 Pac-12) dropped a tough 36-33 home decision to Colorado on Saturday. Ryan Nall ran for 172 yards and tallied three touchdowns for Oregon State.
Earlier in the week, third-year head coach Gary Andersen unexpectedly stepped down and cornerbacks coach Cory Hall was named interim head coach.
Cardinal players said they welcome the bye week.
"We've got a couple guys banged up, and just need to keep up that cardio and re-lock in," said senior inside linebacker Bobby Okereke. "We've got football and school, so refocus, recharge and get ready for the second half of the season."
Added Meeks, "You have to take care of your body and rest. It's coming at a good time and will help us get ahead in our schoolwork. Most importantly take care of our bodies and get ready for the next game."