He never was one to obsess over his statistical standing among Boston College’s elite running backs.
But lately, there is one number that has preoccupied Andre Williams. It is more than just a number, really, it’s a barometer by which all running backs seem to measure themselves.
“I’m trying to hit 1,000 this week, if possible,’’ said the bruising 6-foot, 227-pound senior from Schnecksville, Pa. “That is something that’s been in the back of my mind. I know that 1,000 [yards for the season] is something that could happen this weekend, so I’m just preparing for it.’’
Williams, a Doak Walker Award candidate for best running back in country, will enter Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference road game at North Carolina as the league’s leading rusher and fifth overall in the nation, averaging 139.7 yards per game. Williams, who has already rushed for more than 200 yards twice this season, will need 162 yards to reach the 1,000 mark for the season.
However, Williams, who has rushed a league-leading 157 times for a 838 yards and seven touchdowns, will be treading in uncharted territory when BC (3-3, 1-2 ACC) embarks on its second half of the season.
Williams, who ranks 11th on BC’s all-time rushing list with 2,420 career yards, has never rushed for more than 584 yards in a season, let alone 1,000.
Now in his final go-round at the Heights, Williams has the chance to reach that milestone.
So why has he attached so much importance to it?
“It’s the sign of a good running back if you can get 1,000 yards in a season,’’ Williams said. “It’s not really something I’ve put on a platform or anything, I’d just like to consider myself a good running back.’’
There was no need for Williams to prove that to the men on BC’s offensive line who have been paving the way for him. They already know what kind of running back they have.
They bore witness to the command performance Williams had rushing for a career-high 263 yards and five TDs in a 48-27 demolition of Army Oct. 5 at Alumni Stadium. Williams was 1 yard shy of matching the school’s game rushing mark set by Montel Harris against North Carolina State in 2009.
So Williams will not be going at it alone in his quest for 1,000 yards.
“Obviously, that’s our goal, that’s what we want,’’ said senior right tackle Ian White, a team co-captain. “What he does shows for what we do, so his stats are our stats and the more yards we can get him the better we’ll feel.’’
But does 1,000 yards validate him as a complete back? “He’s already at that level, in my estimation,’’ White said.
Williams will seek the milestone against a Tar Heel squad that ranks 10th in rushing defense in the ACC, allowing an average of 202 yards per game in three conference contests.
“The running back is pretty special, obviously,’’ North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said of Williams. “He’s, what, No. 5 or 6 in the country in rushing, and they are going to bring it downhill and try to beat you with a play-action pass.
“What we’re going to have to do is commit ourselves to stopping the run. That’s for sure.’’
If not, the Tar Heels run the risk of getting tarred and feathered by the Eagles’ rushing attack. Williams has done the bulk of the work, gaining almost four times as many rushing yards as the rest of the team combined (196).
Williams is durable, toting the ball 157 times out of BC’s 237 overall rushing attempts this season, setting an example for the underclassmen who marvel at his appetite for work and contact.
“It’s just perfect for me to come in here and be able to be his backup and be really close to him,’’ said freshman Myles Willis, who has rushed 18 times for 128 yards this season and scored his first career TD on a 38-yard run in BC’s 24-14 loss at Clemson Oct. 12.
“You get to see not only his success on the field but all the work he does off the field,’’ Willis said. “So going into next year I’ll know what it’ll take to have a good year like his.’’
Williams knows if he eclipses the 1,000-yard mark his linemen will make sure it costs him.
“I definitely have to take them out to dinner or something,’’ Williams said. “I’ve got to plan something, but the pockets are hurting right now.’’
So how does he plan to commemorate the moment if he breaks the 1,000-yard mark?
“I’ve just got to keep my priorities straight, because it’s the team before me,’’ Williams said. “We just got to get the win. If we can win and execute, then every other goal is going to come afterward, so I’m not worried about it.’’
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The Eagles listed four players as being out for Saturday’s game in Chapel Hill, N.C: defensive tackle Mehdi Abdesmad (knee), tight end Jarett Darmstatter (ankle), wide receiver Nigel Matthews (head), and safety Spencer Rositano (head).