Heading into the 2016 Sun Bowl, almost all of the major storylines for the Stanford Cardinal (10-3, 6-3 Pac-12) centered around the absence of star running back Christian McCaffrey, who elected to sit out the game to begin preparing for the 2017 NFL Draft.
By the final whistle in El Paso, however, it was another Cardinal standout who seized the headlines and perhaps cemented his own draft status.
In a dominant performance to cap off a breakout season, junior defensive lineman Solomon Thomas recorded 7 total tackles, including a sack, but saved his best play for last, bursting into the North Carolina (8-5, 5-3 ACC) backfield on the Tarheels’ potential game-tying two-point conversion attempt to suppress a late UNC rally and preserve a 25-23 victory for the Cardinal.
In McCaffrey’s absence, sophomore running back Bryce Love stepped into the starting tailback role for the second time in his career and turned in a strong performance, rushing for 119 yards on 21 carries and doing damage as a receiver, grabbing a downfield pass from starting quarterback Keller Chryst and going the distance for a 49-yard touchdown.
Love’s touchdown–his first through the air for the North Carolina native since his inaugural scoring play against UCF last season–also put Stanford on the scoreboard as the Cardinal responded to an early UNC touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
After the early offensive fireworks from both sides, the contest took a sharp turn as Chryst went down with a knee injury late in the first quarter and…
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