Bryce Love wasn't able to contribute too much so he gave just enough and No. 20 Stanford made full use of it in beating California, 17-14, in a Pac-12 Conference football game Saturday.
The Cardinal, which won its eighth straight Big Game, the longest in the history of the 120-year rivalry, will have to wait until next week's Apple Cup game between Washington and Washington State to determine if it plays in the Pac-12 title game on Friday, Dec. 1 at Levi's Stadium against USC.
Stanford (8-3, 7-2) completed its conference schedule and will host No. 9 Notre Dame next Saturday in a 5 p.m. nonconference game.
The Huskies and Cougars each enter Saturday's contest at 6-2 in conference play. Stanford owns the tie-breaker over Washington and Washington State owns the tie-breaker over Stanford. It's not that complicated.
Washington State is the only school that controls its own destiny.
"I'm sure we'll be scoreboard watching to a certain degree," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "We can't worry about what happens on somebody else's field. Either we go to the Pac-12 championship game or we don't."
Love has been walking around with sore ankles for about a month and he missed a game and weeks of practices trying to conserve his energy.
After getting pelted by a swarming Cal defense in the first half, Love had a mere 16 rushing yards, third-best for the Cardinal.
Like he did against Washington, the national rushing leader came out a little better in the second half and it was his 57-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that generated the largest lead of the night for either team at 17-6.
“He was in a lot of pain but he got that crease and then I saw that little 20 squirt out the backside,” Shaw said. “Injured or not, there’s nobody catching Bryce once he gets up to full speed.”
Stanford held on thanks to an intercepted pass by junior free safety Ben Edwards, who had plenty of time to swoop in front of the receiver and then return it 29 yards to the Stanford 35.
The Cardinal offensive line then stepped up and allowed Cameron Scarlett to rush on nine consecutive plays, including a fourth-down conversation that allowed Stanford to run out the final 7:25.
Love rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown despite missing most of the fourth quarter after aggravating his ankle.
Shaw nearly pulled Love out against Cal before the running back’s long touchdown run (his 11th run of 50 yards or longer this season) briefly gave Stanford some breathing room.
“It just wasn’t a way to come out,” Love said. “The thought didn’t even cross my mind.”
Stanford wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside wasn’t shocked even though Love had come out earlier in the game after hurting his left ankle.
“It’s gotten to the point where it’s like, ‘There he goes again, let’s go meet him in the end zone,’ ” Arcega-Whiteside said.
K.J. Costello completed 17 of 26 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown and Scarlett rushed for 49 yards (61 yards total) on the final drive.