What separates rushing touchdown from all other such scores, is the special life it has in a stadium as it happens. As the running back breaks free of the shackles that are the defensive line, sparking hope and anticipation in the crowd, which grows with every graceful move that pushes him deeper into enemy territory until finally, the excitement crescendos by his finding daylight; finding the coveted end zone.
There are few things in football as exhilarating as a truly magnificent touchdown, barrelled in from the ground. A bulldozer, bouncing off defenders, making a heavily contested march towards that painted turf. It is a task that requires just as much grace and composure as it does raw power.
Last season, Bryce Love ran in 19 such scores. These are their ranks and stories.
Note: the 19 touchdowns are not only ranked but also split into three distinct categories into which all of them fall.
Category One - Fantastic, Stanford Blocking
Taking nothing away from Love’s tremendous talent, there are some touchdowns that showcase just as much of the line’s talent as they do his. Stanford’s front has put their running backs in the top 10 for rushing yards four of the last five seasons, making them the most consistent part of their offense.
19. 10-yard Touchdown vs. Rice
On the left side of the line, watch the pulling tackle lead through the hole and take care of the middle linebacker. That is a highlight onto itself.
18. 1-yard Touchdown vs. Washington
17. 9-yard Touchdown vs. USC
16. 75-yard Touchdown vs. USC
Here is a truly special job by the offensive line to move people. This hole is wide enough that I could have picked up a first down, but Love hits a burst of speed to take this all the way.
15. 51-yard Touchdown vs. San Diego State
The patience with which Love runs is vastly underrated. If he bites on the first gap to open up, the most he gets here is a fresh set of downs. He stretches the run, turning it into seven.
Category Two - 0 to 60
Plenty of running backs showcase impressive, top-level speed. But the best running backs, the elite running backs, can flip that switch on like a light and change direction in a blink.
Love’s ability to stutter step and hit his max speed immediately, or find that top gear before he is through the hole, is a big reason he is one of the best tailbacks in the country.
14. 59-yard Touchdown vs. Arizona State
The boundary corner makes a great blitz off the edge, blowing up the quarterback trying to block him and grabbing... air. Love gets gone in a hurry, blowing by the blitz before leaving the safety in the dust. By the way, that safety is Chad Adams, he had a rough day against Love, you’ll see.
13. 67-yard Touchdown vs. Oregon
Nothing quite like dusting a man who had the angle on you.
12. 57-yard Touchdown vs. California
Another fantastic example of elite speed beating two men in the secondary who should have had the angle on Love. He also does a good job letting the play develop, running up underneath the blitz before bouncing all the way outside.
11. 43-yard Touchdown vs. Arizona State
Adams is in trouble again, this time with a well-placed stiff-arm and an ever so slight shake inside keeping the safety from making a touchdown-saving play.
10. 61-yard Touchdown vs. Arizona State
Try jogging while your friend runs past you, grabbing your shoulder and ripping on the way past. Can you stay up? I doubt it. And I assume that your friend is not a three-star recruit, starting for a DI football team. Adams is but still could not get Love to even step out of bounds, much less hit the deck. This was a rough long day for the Allen Texas native.
9. 69-yard Touchdown vs. TCU
TCU beat the hell out of a player that was already hampering leg injuries, forcing him into the medical tent so they could stitch his hand together late in the game. Despite the physical abuse, Love still turned on the burners for one more long touchdown to close the season.
8. 51-yard Touchdown vs. Bryce Love
The little things really need to be appreciated, especially when a top-tier runner is working. Almost instantly after the handoff, a weak block on the sam linebacker could have forced the play too far inside. But a jump cut and a quick burst of gas places Love in the open field.
Upon reaching open space, Love dispatches the safety by slowing down (only for a moment) and giving a quick bob of the head towards the hashmark. This shakes the defender and breaks Love free. Sometimes, it’s the little things in life that are the most entertaining.
Category Three - Love Things
Some people are just special. He is one of those people.
7. 68-yard Touchdown vs. Utah
After nearly tripping up, Love almost gets tangled up in another shoestring tackle but manages to keep his feet clean of everyone as he heads to the end zone. This marks the longest run allowed by Utah in 2017, beating all other opposing runs by at least 10 yards.
6. 13-yard Touchdown vs. Washington
Washington had the play to combat Stanford’s rushing attack in the red zone, both here and in the next clip. Both times, Love shows the right amount of power and grace, slipping past defenders as the backfield collapses before lowering his shoulder to find the end zone, forcing his way past arm tackles.
5. 9-yard Touchdown vs. Washington
How he weaved through that I will never know.
4. 69-yard Touchdown vs. UCLA
Have you ever seen the Powerade commercial with the old-timer sports fan telling the young customer just how many ankles he would have broken, had he only possessed the power of the Powerade back in his prime? This touchdown brings to mind the images of people headed to the ground in droves as a superior brings them down with ease.
Love jukes three players to the turf (even my roommate stumbled while I watched), offering a perfect example of the value change of direction speed possesses.
3. 52-yard Touchdown vs. Washington State
Context is important: the week prior, an ankle injury sidelined Love. A week later, he housed this 52-yard scurry. After taking immediate shots to the legs (you know, where he was injured), Love trucks on, rolling over the safety and putting seven on the board.
2. 5-yard Touchdown vs. Oregon
There is no way he should have scored here. Not only did the Ducks defense have him dead to rights, but the safety stared him down as he trucked through the rabble, loading up to give him a punishing shot across the bow. But in the toughest five-yard run you will ever see, Love finds pay dirt.
- 15-yard Touchdown vs. TCU
Here, Love takes on literally the entire TCU defense as well as a referee who I’m sure would rather be elsewhere. Like an off-kilter shot from a cannon, Love explodes past the line, careening into the second level of the defense, fighting and clawing to the end zone.