Sherman Alston wasn’t supposed to make the first play of Boston College’s biggest win in 10 years. Alston’s 5-foot-6 frame is supposed to be down at Rutgers fighting for playing time, but the Scarlet Knights never paid attention to the local dynamite out of St. Joe’s. BC offensive coordinator Ryan Day and running back coach Al Washington snatched him away from the likes of Bryant, Albany, and Delaware like it was nothing. If Rutgers would’ve come calling, Alston would’ve answered.
The slight has been in Alston’s mind since he arrived on campus this summer.
Alston’s roommate, Jon Hilliman, wasn’t supposed to make the second play of BC’s biggest win in 10 years either. A star out of St. Peter’s, Hilliman flipped his commitment from in-state Rutgers to BC last December after a slew of controversies surrounding the New Jersey program and the hard running of BC back Andre Williams drew him to Chestnut Hill. Alabama, Arkansas, and Florida all wanted Hilliman, but Day and Washington won him over.
So the two New Jersey products talked to each other all week leading up to BC’s matchup against No. 9 USC. If the coaches finally put them in, they were going to make a difference. They’d played sporadically throughout the first two games of the season—a win against UMass and a home loss against Pitt—but something felt different about this week. The Eagles were going to need young weapons to pull off the shocker, and the roommates were itching to earn their coaches’ trust.
The first quarter came and went without either rookie making much noise. Day and head coach Steve Addazio kept putting them on the field, but they couldn’t quite deliver. That changed in the second quarter.
Hilliman broke through first. The coaching staff trusted him with two goal line carries, and he delivered by easily shrugging off a USC defender as he bounced out to the right and stretched the football past the pylons, bringing BC within four points of the Trojans after having trailed 17-6 entering the second.
BC and USC traded scoreless offensive ineptitude until the half only had one and a half minutes left. A poor punt gave the Eagles the ball at their own 46, and Alston knew what was coming.
“I’ve just got to get in the end zone,” Alston thought.
Tyler Murphy faked an option to the right as Alston sprinted in reverse to the left side of the field. The second he caught the ball, he noticed Charlie Callinan’s freeing block and exploded into space. He saw the lane, and it felt good.
“Gotta go, gotta go, gotta get in the end zone,” he thought.
Alston wanted to score the first time he touched the ball for BC. It didn’t happen. He’s been almost obsessively waiting for the moment, and finally, darting 54 yards across the Alumni Stadium field past helpless Trojan defenders, he made it.
“It felt like everything,” he said.
After Alston’s score, Hilliman added another one of his own in the third quarter. Hilliman finished with 89 rushing yards, averaging 4.7 per carry and sealing the victory with clutch fourth quarter running that used to be handled by Williams. Now Day and Addazio were entrusting those touches to a freshman from Jersey. A freshman that came so close to playing for Rutgers, rooming with another freshman Rutgers is probably dying to have—both of them living their dreams three weeks into their first college season.
Neither of them could believe it. Alston, bouncing around and smiling ear to ear, was asked about Rutgers after the game.
“Them guys made a mistake,” he said.