BOSTON (AP) – Boston College running back Andre Williams started this season with a goal of surpassing 1,000 yards rushing.
He blew past that in Week 7.
From there, Williams has continued to knock down the records as if they were defensive backs trying to arm-tackle him in the open field: BC’s single-game rushing record, the school’s single-season mark, his own single-game record again, and then the Atlantic Coast Conference records for a game and a season.
“It does astound me,” Williams said on Monday, two days after running for a record 339 yards on 42 carries in a 38-21 victory over North Carolina State. “There’s no way I could have foreseen my season turning out this way.”
A soft-spoken senior who had gained 1,562 yards – total – in his first three seasons, Williams has been the biggest force behind the turnaround that brought BC from a two-win team to bowl-eligible in just one year. The Eagles qualified for the postseason on Saturday when Williams scored twice and also had a 65-yard run in which he broke four tackles before the ball was knocked out of his hands at the goal line.
At the end of the game, with BC trying to run out the clock, they gave the ball to Williams on every play until he broke free for a 34-yard touchdown run.
“We’re on the sideline, we’re jumping out of our seats,” said linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, who said the defensive players have come to appreciate how Williams controls the game. “It’s been amazing. Now it’s like we expect it. We know Andre’s going to get the ball, he’s going to get the first down. He’s been doing an amazing job. I’m glad I’m here to witness what he’s doing.”
For his performance on Saturday, Williams was received as the ACC player of the week award – the second time he has received the honor this season. But Williams, who broke the conference’s single-season rushing record of 1,798 set by Virginia’s Thomas Jones in 1999, wasn’t the only BC player honored.
Offensive lineman Matt Patchan, who anchored a unit that cleared the way for Williams and freshman Myles Willis to gain 420 yards rushing – the school’s first 400-yard rushing effort since 1973.
Williams gave his blockers much of the credit.
“The O-line, they’ve really come together as a unit,” he said. “They’re knocking people down in bunches, in twos and threes.”
But after that, they’re mostly watching him go by.
“To see what he did to their safeties and all the defensive backs … it’s exciting to watch. You know that if you make your block, he’s going to gain yards,” offensive lineman Ian White said. “It’s exciting to block for him, and it’s exciting to be on a team with him.”
Williams is the leading rusher in the nation with an average of 181 yards per game – more than 30 yards better than the next closest runner in the Football Bowl Subdivision. He needs to total only 190 yards over the next two games – plus a likely bowl appearance – to become the 16th 2,000-yard rusher in NCAA history and the first since 2008.
“Coming into the season, I just wanted to win games, finish with 1,000 yards and I wanted to go back to a bowl game. Nothing as lofty as reaching 2,000 yards or breaking the single-season rushing record,” said Williams, who injured his right shoulder in the first half on Saturday but missed only a few plays. “(I’m) asking people to send up prayers that I’ll be able to finish the season healthy.”
And, now that the Eagles have qualified for a bowl game but not clinched a spot in one, Williams is already focused on his next mission: improving their place in the ACC picking order. BC plays at Maryland this week and finishes up at Syracuse.
“We’re bowl-eligible, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything,” Williams said. “We’re going to have to have a couple of extra wins in order to make our goal of getting to a bowl a reality.”
BC coach Steve Addazio said the team will take special care of Williams this week to help him recover from the school-record 42 carries against N.C. State.
But he isn’t worried about the accolades going to Williams’ head.
“He never says anything. He’s just a guy that wants to do his job,” Addazio said. “He wants to pass block on third down. He’ll block on play action. It’s all the things that some guys don’t love to do, he’s out there doing it.”
But Williams’ humility may be masking an intensity that only his teammates see. Pierre-Louis said Williams came into the season intent on proving that he was the best back in the ACC.
“He said, ‘No one’s going to get in the way of what I have to do this season,'” Pierre-Louis said. “For one of the first times my career, I’m happy there’s a guy on my team, so I don’t have to tackle him. I’m not sure how many of those hits I could take.
“We were all thinking, ‘What would you do?'” Pierre-Louis said. “I’m not going to lie, I’m just going to go for his legs.”