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Running backs like Love, Freeman shining in Pac-12

Bryce Love was essentially Christian McCaffrey's understudy the last two seasons, and he clearly learned well.

Love racked up 263 yards in a 58-34 Stanford victory over UCLA last weekend. He averaged 8.8 yards per carry and had the second-most yards in a single game in school history, behind McCaffrey's 284 against California on Nov. 19.

Love's highlight was a 69-yard touchdown dash in the fourth quarter. The junior from North Carolina became the first player in 20 years with a 50-yard-plus run in six straight games, according to the school.

It was also Love's sixth straight game with more than 100 yards rushing. He's the first Stanford running back with at least 100 yards rushing in each of his first six career starts.

McCaffrey, of course, broke Barry Sanders' NCAA record of 3,250 all-purpose yards, finishing with 3,864 as a sophomore at Stanford in 2015. He led the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,603 yards last season before declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft. He was the eighth overall pick by the Carolina Panthers.

Love said Tuesday that he picked up a lot of lot of things from McCaffrey, including his competitive spirit.

"One thing I always tell people is that there were a lot of little things that he did that really set him apart," Love said. "Like how he was in the classroom, how he was one the field."

And also like McCaffrey, Love is humble and a hard worker, said Stanford coach David Shaw.

"Here's Christian, who is an All-American and a record breaker and worked so hard every single day, and at the same time he was the first one to celebrate Bryce's successes. That humility, combined with hard work, is something not just coaches but teammates appreciate," Shaw said. "And Bryce has been every bit of that. He will work hard, he will push himself, he doesn't ever say 'Look at me, I'm the guy now.' You see him do his job, do what he's supposed to do and continue to work."

Other coaches are quickly catching on to Love.

Utah's Kyle Whittingham was able to watch most of Stanford's win on Saturday night. The Utes have a bye this week, but they've got the Cardinal up next.

"He's got the quickness, the speed, the toughness, instinct, vision. The whole nine yards," Whittingham said. "So he's a guy we'll have our hands full with. Typical Stanford football team, smash-mouth, physical football."

Love burst onto the scene with 180 yards rushing and a touchdown in Stanford's 62-7 victory over Rice in the opener in Australia. He leads the nation with 787 total rushing yards and five scores. He's averaging 196.7 yards a game, also first nationally.

The Cardinal (2-2) have Arizona State (2-2) on Saturday.

A look at the Pac-12's other top rushers:

ROYCE FREEMAN, Oregon: Ranks fifth nationally with 541 total rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He's averaging 135.3 yards a game, ninth nationally.

Freeman finished with 81 yards rushing and a touchdown in Oregon's 37-35 loss at Arizona State last week, setting the school record for career rushing TDs with 54 (besting LaMichael James).

Freeman was widely considered a Heisman contender at the start of last season but he struggled with injuries. He still ran for 945 yards and nine scores, and there was talk he might go to the NFL.

The Ducks were in upheaval after a 4-8 season and the dismissal of coach Mark Helfrich. New coach Willie Taggart reached out to Freeman right away, paying him a visit in Imperial, California, in December.

The town is a two-hour drive east of San Diego, so Taggart didn't just pop by.

"He just wanted me to know he was behind me 100 percent, and wanted to make all my dreams come true. I mean, just be behind me whatever I wanted to do and get everything I wanted accomplished," Freeman said.

And what are those dreams?

"That's personal, man," Freeman said.

The Ducks (3-1) will host California (3-1) on Saturday night.

PHILLIP LINDSAY, Colorado: Lindsay ranks 13th nationally with 446 rushing yards and four TDs. He averages 111.5 yards rushing a game, 20th nationally.

Lindsay led the league last season with 16 rushing touchdowns. He picked up right where he left off, rushing for 140 yards on 19 carries in Colorado's 17-13 season-opening victory over Colorado State. Lindsay had a 45-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

He added 151 yards rushing and a score two weeks later in a victory over Northern Colorado.

Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre called Phillips the team's heart and soul: "He's our fire."

"The great thing about him at running back is he can do everything. He can block, he can catch and he can run. A lot of guys can't do all three phases," MacIntyre said. "Some can really run, some can catch it out of the backfield, some can block. But he can do it all, and is very good at all of the phases."

Colorado (3-1) visits UCLA (2-2) on Saturday.

Stanford running back Bryce Love racked up 263 yards in a 58-34 victory over UCLA last weekend. [THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]
Oregon running back Royce Freeman ranks fifth nationally with 541 total rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He's averaging 135.3 yards a game, ninth nationally. [THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]