Bryce Love is back.
Last year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up will return from a one-game absence when No. 7 Stanford faces 20th-ranked Oregon Saturday night at 5 p.m. at Autzen Stadium.
“Bryce is great,” Stanford coach David Shaw said during a conference call Tuesday morning. “We put him through a pregame workout Saturday and he was awesome. He’s ready to go, fired up to go.”
The Cardinal kept their senior running back sidelined for a 30-10 win over UC Davis on Saturday after he suffered an undisclosed injury the previous week during a 17-3 win over USC. Love ran 22 times for 136 yards and a score against the Trojans.
“That game against USC was physical, Bryce took a lot of shots,” Shaw explained. “Twenty-two carries and many between the tackles, so it was good for him to recover and feel good. He’s ready to go.”
Love ran for 2,118 yards and 19 scores last season, including 147 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-7 win over the Ducks.
Love opened his senior season by running for 29 yards on 18 carries during a 31-10 win over San Diego State. He is averaging 4.1 yards on 40 carries this year after getting 8.1 per rush last year.
Stanford returned four starters on the offensive line this season, including fifth-year seniors Jesse Burkett at center and A.T. Hall at right tackle. Junior guard Nate Herbig is back, along with sophomore left tackle Walker Little.
“Our pass protection has been B to B-plus and our run blocking B to B-minus,” Shaw said. “The main issue with run blocking is we have played a couple coordinators who have tried to take away the run and that opened up the pass game. We have blocked some real different looks, some better than others. All in all, I think we are doing well and better each week.”
Stanford ran 33 times for 137 yards last week without Love as junior Trevor Speights had 87 yards on 11 carries. Stanford is averaging 115.3 rushing yards per game
Shaw noted that “in all three games, we probably had about four plays that really should have been explosive plays, but we either missed a down block or a guy fell off a block or late movement had a young offensive lineman’s eyes in the wrong spot.”
Stanford’s blowout win over Oregon last year was the second of five games that UO quarterback Justin Herbert missed because of injury.
“With the quarterback back, Herbert is special, and he has got weapons all around him,” Shaw said. “He is a weapon himself. He can run and get out in space so you have to contain him as a runner and a passer. He is a good deep-ball thrower.”
Stanford leads the nation by allowing an average of 7.7 points in three games while giving up an average of 301 yards. The Ducks rank eighth in the nation in scoring at 51.7 points per game.
“We are playing well on defense right now and week-to-week you have wrinkles to put guys in positions to be successful and be more difficult to scout for the opponent,” Shaw said. “Play our defense and play it well. Contain the quarterback and don’t let wide receivers behind us. Then squeeze the running lanes to get quick, athletic runners bottled up. We have to play our scheme and play it really well.”