Stanford Cardinal: The Power of Love Returns


Stanford Cardinal running back Bryce Love is returning for his senior year after opting not to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.

Bryce Love’s decision to return to the Stanford Cardinal avoids a familiar question in regards to the Cardinal offense. After prominent tailbacks Toby Gerhart and Christian McCaffrey left early for the NFL, carrying the load became the center of attention each season for coach David Shaw.

Stanford’s point of attack has been the “smash-mouth” principle of using the running game to wear down opponents. In some cases, the Cardinal offense can be vanilla, causing Coach Shaw to occasionally whip out a new flavor from the playbook to keep the game interesting.

With Love returning, the question is no longer an issue until the 2019 season. Dalton Schultz is the only early departure on offense leaving for the NFL Draft. Schultz only caught 22 receptions and three touchdowns but emerged late after the rise of quarterback K.J. Costello.

Stanford Cardinal Football
Stanford Cardinal Football /

Stanford Cardinal Football

Stanford ended the season with a disappointing loss against TCU in the Alamo Bowl. The Cardinal saw an 18-point lead disappear as the Horned Frogs rallied. Comebacks are nothing new for TCU, beating Oregon in the same bowl in 2015 after trailing 31-0 to win in overtime.

At the beginning of the season, Love emerged as a Heisman contender for his outbursts of gaining 40-plus yards on the ground. He made his case after rushing for 301 yards and three touchdowns against Arizona State. Love broke McCaffrey’s record for rushing yards in a single game for Stanford.

But an ankle injury against the Ducks hurt his chances of the Heisman, and the Cardinal’s chances at the playoffs. He sat out against Oregon State and saw limited action against Washington State despite a 52-yard rushing touchdown.

Love made one last case as he single-handedly knocked off Washington with three touchdowns to pace the Cardinal.

In the end, Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma was the clear front-runner and came away with the award.

Grit is just one word to describe the determination of Love in the Pac-12 Championship Game against USC. He re-injured the ankle the week prior in the game against Notre Dame but chose to suit up for Stanford. Through the pain, Love made his presence known to the Trojans, rushing for 125 yards and one touchdown.

Unfortunately, Love’s toughness was not enough as Stanford fell, 31-28, as USC became the first team from the Pac-12 South Division to win the championship.

More from Golden Gate Sports

In the conference championship game, Love showed characteristics of being ready to play at the next level. Love has the patience to wait for gaps to open by the offensive line and immediately burst through the openings.

He also displays physicality as he often sheds off defenders attempting to tackle him. With his return for next season, Love will be an early favorite in the Heisman race.

One possible reason for Love’s decision to return could be in part to his ankle injury. Love can be an every-down rusher, but his injury may likely cause concern amongst NFL teams scouting him. His injury could have potentially made him slip to later rounds of the draft had he declared.

Money is being left on the table, but Love is planning to earn his degree at Stanford in human biology. To receive a degree opens doors to future possibilities, especially from a prestigious school like Stanford. His decision should not face criticism.

Hope is Love can play a full season and avoid another injury.

In 2017, Love rushed for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns. He set the FBS record with 8.1 yards per carry. The Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year also received the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back.

Washington’s Myles Gaskin also chose to return for his senior season, rushing for 1,380 yards and 21 touchdowns. The two teams meet in Seattle on November 3.

Next: Stanford Faces USC In Pac-12 Championship Game

Through the power of Love, the Cardinal offense will have a primary weapon to lead the attack. Stanford must fill the voids left on defense after critical underclassmen players opted to turn pro.