Jon Hilliman burst around the left side of the line. He was still almost 25 yards away from the end zone, but all he saw was daylight. At Wake Forest’s five-yard line, a defender shed his blocker and lunged toward Hilliman’s legs. Hilliman leapt into the air, vaulting the tackler to reach the end zone. As he would later say, “Whatever it takes, by any means—that was pretty much the theme.”
On a day where Boston College nearly blew a 23-3 fourth-quarter lead, the mantra of the day was to finish. Whether it was Tyler Murphy lunging for a few extra yards, Hilliman hurdling that defender, or Justin Simmons and Isaac Yiadom being forced into significant playing time at corner due to starter John Johnson’s injury, BC’s gritty win was born out of the desire to not let a third game slip away. The end result may not have been the prettiest win in the world, but as BC boarded the buses in Winston-Salem with a 23-17 victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in hand, there was a palpable air of relief.
The first half started according to plan. BC rushed out to a 17-0 lead on offense and the defense smothered Wake Forest to the tune of just six yards of offense on 19 plays, or an average of .316 yards per play. Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford, the younger brother of BC tight end Bobby Wolford, was sacked three times by the Eagles, and completed just two of his four pass attempts. It looked as if BC had gotten to him, as the tremendous pressure the Eagles generated up front repeatedly brought the pocket crashing down around his ears.
Wolford got no help from his running game, which generated -3 yards on 15 carries in the first half. Wake Forest had been averaging a robust 36.7 yards per game prior to their game against the Eagles, and was no match for a BC defense that limited USC and Maine to 36 yards combined. Wake would end the day with 19 yards on the ground.
Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson stood behind his decision to stick with the running game in the first half. “The way I want to run the offense is I want to be balanced,” Clawson said. “I want us to have the balance that we had about a year ago, where teams have to defend both [the run and the pass].”
Meanwhile on BC’s sideline, head coach Steve Addazio was thrilled with how his team started the game, controlling the clock and running the ball with authority. “We’ve got to play a whole lot better and we did pretty damn good in the first half,” Addazio said. Hilliman scored a one-yard touchdown in addition to his 33-yard gallop, and Alex Howell, filling in for an injured Mike Knoll, knocked through a 30-yard field goal and both PATs.
But in the second half, the Eagles’ offense was grounded early, gaining just 15 yards in the third quarter. After a defensive stop marked the start of the fourth quarter, BC gained 81 yards in three plays, in what Murphy would jokingly refer to as Chip Kelly’s Eagles offense.
In the seemingly-unending saga of BC special team woes, however, Howell’s PAT was blocked—BC’s fifth missed extra point on the year. It would nearly come back to cost BC again.
That’s when Wake Forest launched a blow that landed squarely on BC’s jaw. Wolford took 15 plays to drive his offense 75 yards, with EJ Scott scoring a three-yard touchdown to cap it all off. On the ensuing kickoff, the normally sure-handed Myles Willis was stripped, with the Demon Deacons recovering both the ball and the momentum. Four plays later, Wake Forest was celebrating in the end zone, having clawed back to within 23-17.
BC reeled. The Eagles gave up 14 straight points and were in danger of having the game spiral away from them. Their next offensive possession resulted in two first downs, but it stalled at Wake Forest’s 41-yard line. Then came the doubts. BC lost to Colorado State and Clemson late in the game, with chances to win both. That would not be the case on Saturday.
Wake Forest’s first play went for 27 yards to its own 47. Then Wolford stepped up, and as Clawson would say, “He forced it.”
Simmons, the safety who was forced into the starting corner position just four days ago, clutched the ball to his chest, securing the interception. The defense stopped Wake. Now it was up to the offense.
Out came Murphy and Hilliman, knowing they could run out the game clock with a few first downs. This time, there was no doubt. They were going to do whatever it took. This time, they weren’t letting the game slip away. They ran through, around, and over a tired, deflated Wake Forest defense, running out the clock to seal the victory.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor