AJ Dillon and David Bailey Get Boston College Up and Running on the Road to Clemson
By James Hunter Somers
Coming into this game, all signs pointed to a low scoring affair. On the one hand, Boston College was throwing its raw signal-caller Dennis Grosel back into the mix after a close loss to Louisville leading up to the bye. Without Anthony Brown on call, many fans worried that the Eagles’ run game would struggle against the Wolfpack’s nationally-acclaimed front.
On the other side of the ball, there were many doubts surrounding Boston College’s young defense. While Max Richardson, Brandon Sebastian and John Lamot had put forth impressive campaigns through the first half of the season, the defense’s susceptibility to third-down conversions and explosive plays had cost the team in several games. However, Steve Addazio clearly used the bye week to clean up these flaws. Not only did the two-headed monster of AJ Dillon and David Bailey put forth a historic effort, but the Eagles’ defense held the Wolfpack to a meager 4–17 on third down.
While the team found undeniable success on the day, the first couple of drives were marked by frustration and missed opportunities. A 51-yard catch and run off a screen pass to Hunter Long seemed to spell good things for the Eagles on the second drive of the game. However, old concerns popped up as the team found itself moving backwards in result of two penalties in the end zone. To make matters worse, Aaron Boumerhi missed the 38-yard field goal, leaving the team with nothing to show from the drive.
With 5:36 left to go in the first quarter, the Eagles defense got the show started. Recovering the punt at their one-yard line, the Wolfpack offense would never work their way out of the red zone. On third down, Richardson applied pressure to Bailey Hockman, forcing him to throw an errant pass towards his receiver. Jason Maitre read the pass perfectly, cutting off the pass before storming into the end zone for the pick six. It was the redshirt freshman’s first career interception.
In many ways, Maitre’s set the tone for the rest of the game. After putting the first points on the board, the Eagles never looked back. With an early lead, Steve Addazio was able to cater to the team’s strengths, riding on the back of his merciless run game and strong defense. Whereas the Louisville matchup forced Grosel to throw early and often, this script allowed him to take a back seat to his talented backs. After attempting 12 passes in the first quarter, he would only look to throw three more times over the remainder of the game.
Dillon and Bailey offered a thunder and lightning punch as they racked up over 400 yards rushing on the day. The Boston College front line simply manhandled NC State’s rush defense, opening gaping holes for the backs to rumble downfield. It was a long time coming for Bailey, who had a career day with five carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone. Meanwhile, Dillon made life difficult for the Wolfpack defense, carrying the rock 34 times throughout the game. Whereas Addazio relied on David Bailey for splash plays as shown by the back’s two scores from 54 and 48 yards out, he called on Dillon to run out the clock and pick up the short gains.
The Boston College defense showed vast improvement from the Wake Forest and Louisville games. Wishing to avoid the heat they received for the splash plays they gave up in these meetings, they looked to bottle up the run early. On the entire day, the Pack running game picked up 56 yards, two yards more than one of Bailey’s second quarter scampers. To add to their bounce back campaign, the team stopped Hockman’s squad from scoring in the red zone on two separate occasions. Richardson stuffed the run on 4th and goal in the first quarter. Then, press coverage proved too much to handle for the replacement quarterback Devin Leary at the start of the second half.
As the game drew to a close, fans impatiently waited to see if Dillon would make BC football history by claiming the all-time rushing record. However, as the Boston College’s final punt was downed at the 30-yard line, it was all but written in stone that this would need to come another day. Dillon would need to settle for 223 on the day, putting him 74 yards short of Andre Williams standing record. All in all, it was a very impressive showing for Boston College coming out of the bye. The team must now ride the positive momentum on the road to their meeting with the ACC’s top dog in Clemson. A bowl game is certainly still in contention.