With ball in hand and an entire defense in pursuit, Andre Williams had his sights set on North Carolina State’s end zone midway through the fourth quarter.
The senior was sprinting toward one of the most dominant individual performances in school history, powering through the gaps opened by his offensive line like he’d done so many times before. Every stride was one stride closer to another place in the Boston College football team’s record books and heightened chatter of Heisman consideration. In the moment, Williams was about to give the Eagles a two-possession lead.
And then with a swipe of his hand, NC State’s Justin Burris turned a 69-yard dash into chaos.
Alumni Stadium watched as the fumbled football bounced in the end zone with the ominous bounce of a golden opportunity gone wrong. Yet BC’s star running back had wide receiver Alex Amidon doggedly trailing his run the entire time, a teammate, classmate, and roommate that he’d grown up alongside through the highs and lows of four seasons.
Amidon dove to smother the fumble, wrestling it away from another NC State defender, and secured the touchdown. After seasons defined by coming up short, the senior receiver refused to let anything get in the way of returning to the promised land he, Williams, and the rest of BC’s senior class hadn’t been to since their freshman year-a college football bowl game.
“We’ve always been there for each other,” Williams said, “and right when I needed him, he was there for me.”
Propelled by Williams’ school record 339 rushing yards and Amidon’s hustle, the Eagles captured a 38-21 Senior Day victory on Saturday and clinched bowl eligibility for the first time in three years.
“We came out and scrapped and fought really hard today to get that win,” said head coach Steve Addazio.
Aside from a touchdown run by true freshman Myles Willis, BC’s seniors controlled the game’s tempo from the outset. Williams followed a Nate Freese field goal with a powerful 17-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to give the Eagles an early 10-point advantage. America’s leading rusher had eclipsed the 100-yard mark before the first quarter even came to a close.
“He’s certainly without a doubt one of the more dominant players in college football,” Addazio said of Williams. “He’s an unselfish guy who realizes that he has a great offensive line in front of him, and he realizes that this is a team game.”
Despite facing a 17-7 deficit at halftime, NC State fought through uncertainty under center to hang around for the better part of three quarters. The Wolfpack caught BC’s secondary off-guard early in the fourth quarter with offensive trickery, as receiver Rashard Smith took a handoff and heaved the ball to teammate Quinton Payton for a 49-yard aerial score.
Yet BC’s seniors were sure to keep their tenuous 20-14 lead from slipping away. After Williams and Amidon combined to notch an unorthodox score midway through the fourth quarter, their classmate Chase Rettig followed with a two-point conversion that captured his squad’s gutsy performance.
Without an open target to throw to, the senior quarterback took the ball himself up the middle on a draw. He leapt headfirst toward the NC State defenders awaiting him at the goal line and barreled his way into the end zone to secure a lead the Eagles never relinquished.
There was still damage to be done.
Having already eclipsed BC’s single-season rushing record, Williams followed his Alumni Stadium ovation with a 34-yard touchdown run in the game’s final minute. Like he had already done 13 times this season, the senior burst through the openings forged by his offensive line and powered his way into the end zone.
On 42 carries, Williams turned the stat sheet upside down.
His 339 rushing yards shattered the school’s single-game record that he set a week earlier. They not only marked the most prolific rushing performance in FBS Division I football this season, but also the highest single-game total in ACC history.
“It really wasn’t hard to get back on the field and get another run out there,” Williams said, “even though I was hurting and even though I was tired. None of those things really mattered because there was just so much on the line.
“Everything that we wanted was right in front of us, and now we’re bowl eligible. That’s what we were fighting for the whole season.”
When time expired in the fourth quarter, the Eagles chased two years of disappointment away with a moment of adulation.
It left Kevin Pierre-Louis with a memory he’d been hoping to make one day.
The senior linebacker recalled walking through an administrator’s office early in his career and eyeing a sky-view picture of the Alumni faithful spilling onto the field after an upset victory over Notre Dame years earlier. Even in the midst of one of the program’s darkest stretches, he wanted to share a similar signature moment with his own classmates.
And in the singing mob of gold Superfan t-shirts that surrounded him and his teammates on the field after Saturday’s win, Pierre-Louis realized his wish had come true in the final home game of his college career.
“There’s not too many times in life when you know it’s going to be your last chance,” he said, “and today was one of those times that you knew that. This is it. You’ll never have this time back. I’m just glad that we came together, and we’re going to remember this day for the rest of our lives.”
Featured Image by Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff