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What happened to rushing for 1,000 yards being a big deal?

Stanford's Bryce Love took the ball and waited a beat for offensive linemen Nick Wilson and A.T. Hall to toss aside Arizona State defenders. He then sprinted through a massive hole toward the end zone, and the record books.

The 59-yard dash marked Love's third and final touchdown against ASU -- each of which went 43 yards or longer -- and propelled him toward 301 rushing yards, a team record. Just before crossing the goal line on his last score, Love also blew past a marker that used to mean something in college football, but might not carry much value any longer.

One thousand rushing yards.

Not long ago, college running backs saw 1,000 yards in the distance and charged toward it all season. They chipped away in September and October. The best would reach 1,000, usually on a chilly November day, their bodies sore from months of 20- or 30-plus carries a game.

Love reached 1,000 on a sun-splashed afternoon on the final day of September, in Stanford's fifth game, on his 87th carry of the still-young season. The Stanford junior is the third player to reach 1,000 yards in his team's fifth game since 2004, and the 11th in FBS history, a group that includes Heisman Trophy winners Marcus Allen, Ricky Williams and Barry Sanders, whose NCAA single-season rushing record (2,628 yards) is suddenly in jeopardy because of Love.

"I don't know if I ever thought I'd see this," Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren said. "It's the old adage you hear about backs:You give him a crease, and he's gone. But this kid, you give him a crease, he's freaking gone, man. He's gone."

Also gone is the idea of 1,000 rushing yards being a true merit badge for college running backs. Although Love is the nation's only 1,000-yard rusher, San Diego State's Rashaad Penny needs only seven more yards to get there. Thirty-one FBS players reached the midpoint of the season with 500 or more rushing yards.

"It's supposed to be harder than that, and it is still hard," Stanford coach David Shaw said, "but when you've got a special guy that can turn a 4-yard play into a 50-yard play, you end up passing up those still-high standards, and you pass them pretty early."

In 1983, David Cutcliffe was a 29-year-old finishing his first season as a full-time Tennessee assistant. That fall, he watched Johnnie Jones become the first Vol to rush for 1,000 yards.

The following season, Cutcliffe saw Jones do it again.

"It started happening more frequently," said Cutcliffe, now Duke's head coach. "I still pay attention to it. If a guy has rushed for over 1,000 yards, I'm going to respect it.

"That may be reflective of my age."

Now 63, Cutcliffe has seen the 1,000-yard rushing season go from rare to routine. Seventy players reached 1,000 rushing yards last season, up from 66 in 2015. The list included famous names -- Florida State's Dalvin Cook, Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, Penn State's Saquon Barkley -- and others well outside of the national spotlight (New Mexico's Tyrone Owens, Buffalo's Jordan Johnson, Bowling Green's Fred Coppet).

In 1983, only 23 men joined Tennessee's Jones in the 1,000-yard club. The numbers gradually increased, although the 1999 season had only 32 rushers reach 1,000.

In 2002, the NCAA began including statistics from bowl games in players' season totals. Four years later, the sport adopted a 12-game regular-season schedule. The 2007 season produced 58 FBS players who rushed for 1,000 or more yards.

"More games, more plays, so there's going to be more 1,000-yard rushers," Miami coach Mark Richt said. "It just makes sense. More first downs, more points. When people go, 'You snapped the ball 80 times a game instead of 60,' and you add the 11th game, 12th game, overtime, bowl game, championship game, and all those count, that's part of it."

Richt added: "I still think it's meaningful."

Miami's Mark Walton finished with 1,117 rushing yards last season, good for 47th nationally. In 1964, his total would have led the country. (1959 is the last season without a 1,000-yard rusher.)

The lengthening of both seasons and games -- the latter through tempo-driven offenses, some of which average 80-85 plays per game -- has led to more 1,000-yard performances. There are also some obstacles working against the 1,000-yard rusher: offenses passing the ball more than ever; the preference of many coaches to use multiple ball carriers; and defenses better equipped to take away a star back. But the number of players reaching the mark continues to rise.

Love's quick path to 1,000 yards is especially significant because Stanford doesn't use tempo. The Cardinal average just 58.5 plays per game, 127th out of 130 FBS teams. Stanford also doesn't pose an overwhelming passing threat, ranking 102nd nationally in pass attempts per game (26.3) and 97th nationally in pass yards per game (188.3).

"We've had seven-man boxes or more on 82 percent of our runs," Bloomgren said. "I mean, that's ridiculous. It's not like we're spreading guys sideline to sideline and you catch a block and away we go. He's having to earn some of these things now."

Eight of Stanford's past nine single-season rushing leaders eclipsed 1,000 yards -- McCaffrey went for 2,019 in 2015 -- but Shaw and Bloomgren still respect the number. It's just that 1,000 rushing yards no longer moves the needle by itself.

"It's the totality of the impact [the player] has," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "If you're just looking at rushing alone, I don't think 1,000 yards is what it used to be 20 years ago. But if you have 1,000 yards and you're also one of the better receivers on your team and then you're also doing things in the return game and things like that, then it can be significant."

Franklin is not-so subtly describing Barkley, a Heisman contender who leads Penn State in rushing (649 yards), receiving (395 yards) and kick returns (298 yards).

Other factors matter more than ever in judging 1,000-yard efforts. Maryland's Ty Johnson had the lowest total among 1,000-yard rushers last season (1,004), but also the highest per-carry average (9.1). Utah's Joe Williams produced 1,407 rushing yards in only nine games, afterretiringthat September, only to return the next month because the team was out of options.

Derrius Guice's rushing total of 1,387 yards at LSU in 2016 is amplified by the fact he began the season playing behind Heisman candidate Leonard Fournetteand gained 929 of his yards in SEC games. Arguably more impressive is Auburn's Kamryn Pettway, who had 971 rush yards in just seven SEC games and finished with 1,224 rush yards in just nine games overall. Plus, he shared carries with Kerryon Johnson. Jarred Craft's total of 1,074 rushing yards is notable because Louisiana Tech attempted 543 passes, seventh-most nationally.

"It used to be guys in the I formation and they got the ball 35 times a game," Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. "Those days, they're not gone, but they're just fewer and far between."

Love needed just 87 carries to reach 1,000, and 118 carries to reach 1,240 yards. He averages more than a first down (10.5 yards) per carry.

"It almost has to be looked at, like, how many plays does it take you to get to 1,000?" Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. "How many did it take Herschel Walker, Tony Dorsett or whoever?"

The distribution of carries is another factor in assessing 1,000-yard seasons. Like NFL teams, more college squads are using two or more ball carriers to preserve them, and provide defenses with different looks. Last season, eight FBS teams had two 1,000-yard rushers, including Tulsa, which produced two of the nation's top 17 rushers in James Flanders and D'Angelo Brewer. Nevada remains the only FBS team with three 1,000-yard rushers in a season (2009).

Still, the appreciation for 1,000 yards and the featured backs striving for the mark isn't completely lost around college football. Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson, who has yet to produce a 1,000-yard rusher with the Demon Deacons, said of the achievement, "It's still a major landmark. It's still a big deal."

Part of Ryan Nall's offseason motivation at Oregon State was ending last season 49 yards shy of 1,000.

"I see some of the great backs and I've noticed they're all rushing for over 1,000 yards," Nall said. "It's just an elite level, and I want to be there. I almost had it last year, but it's one of my personal goals."

Northwestern's Justin Jackson has somewhat quietly produced three 1,000-yard seasons, never averaging more than 5.1 yards a carry. Already the first Northwestern player to record three 1,000-yard seasons, Jackson needs 832 yards to pass Indiana's Anthony Thompson (5,299) for second on the Big Ten career rushing list.

Other backs garner more national attention, but Jackson's cumulative contribution is impressive. "Almost unheard of," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

A Hall of Fame linebacker at Northwestern in the mid-1990s, Fitzgerald appreciates the 1,000-yard running back but acknowledges, with the 12-game schedule, "Maybe 1,200 is the old 1,000." Bloomgren said the number of 100-yard rushing performances stands out, as some backs load up against weaker opponents early in the season. Love has at least 152 yards in all six games, four of which have come against Pac-12 opponents. "It's so hard week in and week out to get 100 yards." Bloomgren said.

Others see the new bar as 1,400 yards (reached by 19 players last season) or even 1,500 (reached by 13).

Yet when Duke is facing an opponent with a 1,000-yard back, Cutcliffe makes sure the team's defenders know about it.

"I'm going to respect that," he said. "That is a special back. That's durability. That's staying healthy. That's a good football player still."

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