Last season, Bryce Love rushed for 184 yards and two scores but his Stanford team was upset by San Diego State in a truly surprising result. This season, things went a lot differently for the Heisman front-runner, both on the ground and on the scoreboard.
Love was bottled up to the tune of just 29 yards by a feisty Aztecs defense but the No. 13 Cardinal managed to still run away with a 31-10 victory and start 2018 on the right note to go 1-0.
It was not for lack of effort from the Stanford tailback, who broke off numerous runs of 50+ yards a year ago and was fed early and often with carries on Friday night. SDSU not only loaded the box with defenders but did a great job in pursuit and never did seem to allow much daylight for Love to run through.
That did, however, open things up quite a bit for the Stanford passing game. Quarterback K.J. Costello threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns (one interception) to lead the way after a bit of a slow start, doing well to stay in the pocket and deliver quite a few strikes downfield. His favorite target was undoubtedly JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who had no problem taking over from Love as the highlight machine. The lengthy wideout finished the evening with 226 yards and a trio of touchdowns — adding a two-point conversion off a jump ball for good measure as well.
If there was a running back in the game who turned heads, it might just have been SDSU’s Juwan Washington. Looking like the next in an incredible line of incredible backs at the school, the junior ran for a career-high 158 yards and a touchdown as the team’s lone source of consistent offense.
Quarterback Christian Chapman never could get the passing game going to take the pressure of his tailback and finished with 113 yards through the air while taking five sacks. Perhaps the signal-caller’s most memorable (or unmemorable) moment came in the first half when he was trying to escape a sack in the end zone but ended up trying to fumble the ball forward. It was called for grounding and resulted in a safety for the Cardinal defense.
Though there was a bit of a slow start to the game, in the end Stanford showed why they were labeled by some as a trendy dark horse in both the Pac-12 and College Football Playoff races. On an off night for their Heisman-favorite, it was an encouraging sign for David Shaw and company to see other parts of the offense spring to life and the defense look a little more stout than initially expected.
Things will be much tougher next week as rival USC comes to the Farm but just about everybody around the program will be happy with the way things went on Friday night. Even with the sub par numbers, that likely includes Love as well even if it did him no favors in trying to get back to New York at the end of the year.