In 2010, the Boston College football team finished its regular-season schedule with five straight wins, earning a bowl trip for the 12th consecutive season.
That feels like a long time ago.
The Eagles took a nosedive after that 7-5 campaign, finishing 4-8 in 2011 and bottoming out with dismal 2-10 showing last year, with one of those wins coming over Maine, an FCS squad.
But now, in the first season under head coach Steve Addazio, BC is back. And while Addazio’s “Be a dude” mantra has brought about a culture change in Chestnut Hill, the real man behind Eagles’ sudden success is Andre Williams, whose emergence on the national scene has been as surprising as his team’s.
BC was expected to go nowhere this season. ACC voters had the Eagles ranked dead last in the Coastal Division in the preseason poll (Interestingly enough, Duke, which knocked off Miami last weekend to climb into the Top 25, was picked to finish last in the Atlantic.), with the consensus being that they would spent a third straight winter outside of bowl contention.
Enter Williams. The senior running back was not an unknown face entering Week 1 — he racked up upward of 450 yards on the ground in each of his first three seasons — but few foresaw a breakout season from the Pennsylvania native. Like the Eagles, Williams received little love in the preseason polls, failing to crack the top four among running backs on the All-ACC ballot.
It did not take him long to introduce himself.
In Week 2 against ACC rival Wake Forest, the Eagles’ first FBS opponent of the season, Williams carried the ball 35 times for 204 yards — a career-high at the time. He was held in check the following week against USC, picking up just 38 yards in a blowout loss, but he responded with a 149-yard effort against Florida State, which has since climbed to No. 2 in the national polls. BC blew a 14-0 lead and went on to lose that game, but the 48-34 final was by far the smallest margin of victory this season for the Seminoles, who have outscored opponents by an average of 41.6 points.
Williams has since topped 165 yards in five of his last six games — save for a 70-yard performance in a 24-14 loss to then-No. 3 Clemson — and broken his own single-game career-high three times. The most impressive performance of all came just last week, when the senior ran for an conference-record 339 yards against N.C. State to surpass Mike Cloud as BC’s all-time single-season rushing leader and Virginia’s Thomas Jones as the single-season leader in the ACC.
Oh, and he still has two games left to play.
Entering this weekend’s meeting with Maryland, Williams’ rushing total of 1,810 yards leads the FBS, with Colorado State’s Kapri Bibbs (second with 1,439) and Northern Illinois Heisman candidate Jordan Lynch (third with 1,434) 400 yards off the pace. He needs 364 yards over his final two games to pass BC’s all-time rushing leader, Montel Harris, but those aren’t the numbers on Williams’ mind right now.
The win over N.C. State was BC’s sixth of the season, making the team bowl eligible but not guaranteeing a postseason bid. Eight ACC squads have already reached the six-win plateau, and another three have the opportunity to do so this weekend, making the Eagles’ final two games, conference matchups against the Terrapins and Syracuse, among their most important of the season.
“We’re bowl eligible but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything because there are a lot of other teams bowl eligible in our conference and we’re gonna have to secure a couple more wins in order to make our goal of getting to a bowl game a reality,” Williams told ESPN.com earlier this week. “We know that the Music City Bowl is on the table. That’d be a great bowl game to go to, down in Nashville. Once you reach your goals, you kinda have to reassess what there is left on the table for you to go get.”
Williams has come a long way to help drag Boston College out of the doldrums of the ACC. But he knows his job is not done just yet.
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