The first time freshman Bryce Love touched the ball in Stanford’s 31-7 victory over Central Florida on Saturday, it was by mistake.
Afterward was by design.
Love finished with 143 all-purpose yards in the Cardinal’s home opener, much of it on a screen pass that he turned into a 93-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
His first touch was accidental. Stanford (1-1) lined up in the wildcat on a first-and-long. Love went in motion, and the ball was snapped, intended for Christian McCaffrey.
Instead, it hit Love in the helmet. He grabbed it and turned it into an 8-yard gain.
“It was unintentional. His timing was a little off,” Cardinal coach David Shaw said at his weekly press conference Tuesday. “Love stole the ball and made a positive out of it.”
Barely an afterthought in the game against Northwestern — he lost two yards on his only carry — Love likely earned more playing time in the Cardinal’s game at No. 6 Southern California on Saturday.
Love, one of the top running back prospects out of North Carolina, became the first Stanford player with more than 100 receiving yards in a game in two years.
Love later caught a 42-yard pass from fifth-year senior quarterback Kevin Hogan before turning the screen pass into Stanford’s third-longest passing play.
Even the screen pass was a last-minute addition to the playbook. Shaw said he doesn’t like throwing a lot of things at a freshman, but based on the defense, decided to slip it in.
“He may have gotten a couple of reps on that play during the first week of training camp but nothing since,”Shaw said. “It was a roll of the dice. If he gets a lane to run, it’s great. Love made the safety miss and had a clear line to the goal. It was not in the game plan but we talked about it at halftime.”
NOTES: Stanford, one of the least penalized teams in the Pac-12 the past several years, was called for 12 penalties for a total of 137 yards. Shaw said he’s seen other teams do worse that didn’t get called. “That’s not to excuse what we did,” he said. “In the first half, all the positives were wiped out by penalties. We’re not going to play timid. We will play aggressive and we will play physical.” … Placekicker Conrad Ukropina, who was a walk-on, was awarded a scholarship following the game. “We think that if a walk-on earns a starting position, he gets a scholarship,” Shaw said. “We wanted him to take the job and keep the job. He’s done that.”