STANFORD — Bryce Love’s “jet streak” came to an end last Friday. Love had previously played in eight games this season, and in all eight he recorded a run of 50 yards or more. It was an NCAA first. Love didn’t get there against Washington, though he did break a 30-yarder. Ultimately, he had to console himself with 166 yards and three touchdowns in Stanford’s 30-22 upset victory against the then-No. 9 Huskies.
Disappointing? His running backs coach thought it was one of Love’s best games of the season.
“Oh, yeah,” Ron Gould said. “He had a run going to the right, and he came through the line. They tried cutting our first puller. He jumps over that, he put that same foot in the ground and he accelerates to the second level. I’m standing there like, ‘Whoa! This is his best run of the year.’ Not very many guys can do it.”
Anyway, there were mitigating factors. Like, Washington entered the game with the nation’s top-ranked defense. And Love’s ankle was less than 100 percent. And the meteoric halfback was this close to doing a lot more.
“He had a couple runs last week that I told him he didn’t maximize just one little thing I was coaching him on, and he would have scored two more touchdowns,” Gould said.
I wanted to get a better sense of Love’s abilities, so I spoke to Gould after practice Tuesday. The Cardinal work out when classes are over. It was 7 p.m. by the time they wrapped up drills, and it was chilly at Elliott Fields. Gould was coughing a little by the end of the interview, probably an occupational hazard for college football coaches.
Gould, you should know, has a track record. During his 16 seasons as the Cal running backs coach, he tutored J.J. Arrington and Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Anderson and Jahvid Best, Justin Forsett and Shane Vereen, Adimchinobe Echimandu, Will Ta’ufo’ou, Daniel Lasco and Byron Storer. All of them went on to play in the NFL. Berkeley became an NFL pipeline for running backs, and Gould was the pipefitter.
His current task is to make things miserable for his former program. Gould joined David Shaw’s staff at Stanford this year after spending four seasons as the head coach at UC Davis. This Saturday, the Cardinal will host Cal in the 120th installment of our local Big Game.
Spoiler alert: Gould likes Love. Likes him a lot. Talks about how unassuming and hardworking and tough the athlete from Wake Forest, North Carolina, is.
“It will take you five seconds talking to the kid to realize he’s special,” Gould said.
Love is a magnetic personality. This is Stanford we’re talking about, so of course he’s involved in stem cell research. As outlined in a Sports Illustrated feature that ran in October, Love spends portions of several days each week in the laboratory of Michael Longaker, a surgeon studying the use of stem cells to reduce scarring as patients heal. In the lab and on the field, he tends to charm people with his smile.
But charisma and brains don’t make great football players. What Love has in true abundance is foot speed. He set several USA Track & Field age-group records when he was 11, 12, 13 and 14, was a 4x100-meter state champion in high school and would likely be an Olympic hopeful in the sprints if he didn’t enjoy football so much.