ASU Football: Two keys to limiting Bryce Love and the rushing attack

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Bryce Love /

ASU football threw Oregon a curveball by shutting down the Ducks offense in a 37-35 upset on Sept. 23. The Sun Devils will now look to slow down Bryce Love and the Stanford Cardinal.

Since 2009, Stanford has had two exceptional running backs in Toby Gerhart and Christian McCaffrey. After the latter left Palo Alto for the NFL, all eyes were on Bryce Love.

Through four games, the junior has helped Cardinal fans forget about McCaffrey quickly as he leads the NCAA in rushing yards with 787 to go along with a jaw-dropping 10.8 yards per carry.

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With all of the success Love is having as the featured back, one question remains unanswered heading into Saturday’s tilt between ASU and Stanford: How do the Sun Devils limit a player as productive as Love?

1. Deny the outside

Before directing his focus to football, Love was leaving competition in the dust on the track. He currently has a 40-yard dash time of 4.32 seconds and is a threat to break off a big run on seemingly every touch.

A natural playmaker, Love reads his blocks well and can improvise in the open field. Watch below against San Diego State how he exhibits pure speed in addition to reacting to the breakdown of plays on his long runs.

Going against a ball carrier who thrives in open space, the Sun Devils need to get off the line quickly Saturday afternoon. ASU has 28 tackles for loss on the season and will likely have to replicate its per-game average of seven TFLs to be disruptive.

The veterans of this defense will need to step up in a big way against the Cardinal to contain Love. Look for D.J. Calhoun, Alani Latu, JoJo Wicker and Tashon Smallwood to provide impact performances.

2. Score early and often

Redshirt junior Manny Wilkins has quietly had a phenomenal season for ASU, completing over 66 percent of his passes and has no interceptions through 140 attempts. Under Wilkins, the passing attack has found a groove.

Stanford’s defense is not the dominant unit it once was. If ASU can continue to mount long scoring drives and put up points consistently, the Cardinal will eventually need to throw the ball.

Even if Stanford finds itself down in this contest, expect head coach David Shaw to feed Love the ball until he no longer can.

Next: ASU Football: What happened to the rushing attack?

A 2-0 start in Pac-12 play would help Sun Devils fans forget the program’s dismal non-conference record but it all starts with the containment of Bryce Love. Kick-off between Stanford and ASU will be at 1:00 p.m. from Palo Alto and can be seen on Pac-12 Network.