STANFORD — Bryce Love continues to make it look easy.
The Stanford running back rushed for a school-record 301 yards and scored on runs of 61, 43 and 59 yards, sparking the Cardinal to a 34-24 victory over Arizona State in front of an announced crowd of 44,422 on Saturday afternoon.
Love, who leads the nation in rushing, pushed his season total to 1,088 yards to become just the third FBS back since 2004 to crack the 1,000-yard barrier in his team’s first five games, according to ESPN.
The senior from North Carolina is averaging more than a first down (11.1 yards) each time he has carried the ball this season. He gained 12.0 yards for each of his 25 attempts against the Sun Devils.
Stanford (3-2, 2-1 Pac-12) won for the second straight game and avoided dropping below .500 after five games for the first time since 2007. ASU (2-3, 1-1), coming off a win over Oregon, never led.
Love, who has seven straight 100-yard rushing games dating back to last season, eclipsed Christian McCaffrey’s year-old school record of 284 yards. In fact, the Stanford PA erroneously gave Love the record three plays before he actually got it with an 11-yard burst with 4:11 left in the game.
He has at least one run of 50 yards or longer in every game this season, and had a gain of 30 yards-plus in each quarter against the Sun Devils.
In five games, Love’s yardage totals are: 180, 160, 184, 263 and 301. With seven games left on the regular-season schedule, he is more than half way to McCaffrey’s 2015 single-season school record of 2,019 yards.
Love had a lead of more than 300 yards over the nation’s No. 2 rusher, San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, headed into the Aztecs’ game Saturday night against Northern Illinois.
Redshirt freshman K.J. Costello got his first start at quarterback for Stanford and completed 15 of 24 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. Safety Justin Reid had two interceptions for the Cardinal defense.
Jet Toner’s 21-yard field goal on the final play of the first half pushed Stanford’s lead to 24-17 at the break. He added a 22-yarder with 2:26 left in the game to give the Cardinal a 10-point cushion.
Love made his first TD dash just four plays into the game, breaking free of would-be tackler Chad Adams at the 25 on the way to his 61-yard scoring play.
He went 43 yards barely 90 seconds into the second quarter, once more eluding the grasp of Adams, extending Stanford’s lead to 14-3.
And he contributed runs of 39 and 15 yards to Stanford’s next scoring sequence, capped by Costello’s 12-yard TD pass to wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside for a 21-10 margin with 4:11 left in the half.
Love had 159 yards by halftime — 158 of them on just four carries.
His final TD came on a 59-yard burst that made it 31-17 with 6:46 left in the third quarter.
The Sun Devils were particularly effective out of their “Sparky” formation, where a running back or receiver takes a direct snap from center. They ran five such plays with three different players in the first half, and made them count for two first downs and two touchdowns.
Running back Demario Richard scored on a 3-yard dash after taking the snap, and wideout N’Keal Harry fooled Stanford by stepping back and delivering a 21-yard TD pass to wide-open tight end Ceejhay French-Love.
* The only other two FBS backs to top 1,000 yards in their team’s first five games since 2004 were Northern Illinois’ Garrett Wolfe, 1,181 yards in 2006) and LSU’s Leonard Fournette (1,022 in 2015).