LAS CRUCES, N.M. — They flew some 7½ hours, across three time zones, to arrive at this sun-splashed, mountainous Land of Enchantment. It was a long way to go to end a woeful nine-game road losing streak, but the Boston College football team was willing to go the extra mile Saturday.
Senior running back Andre Williams rushed 30 times for a school-record 295 yards, including fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 80 and 47 yards, to lead the Eagles to their first road victory of the season, a wild 48-34 triumph over New Mexico State before an Aggie Memorial Stadium crowd of 14,997.
More important, the nonconference triumph moved the Eagles to 5-4 and drew them within one victory of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
Williams entered the game the nation’s No. 2 rusher and New Mexico State owned the nation’s worst run defense. But the Eagles needed every yard Williams gained to overcome a feisty Aggie squad that refused to go away.
The Eagles won the opening coin toss, deferred until the second half, and recorded a three-and-out on New Mexico State’s first offensive series.
But things took a disastrous turn for BC on the ensuing punt when it bounced off David Dudeck’s chest and into the arms of Darien Johnson, who scooped up the ball at the BC 29 and ran it into the end zone. However, the score was nullified when the play was ruled a muffed punt, and New Mexico took over at the 29.
After Manny Asprilla made a nice open-field tackle on Austin Franklin for no gain on third and 7, the Aggies were forced to settle for a 43-yard field goal by Maxwell Johnson with 12:34 remaining in the first quarter.
BC senior kicker Nate Freese answered for the Eagles when he converted a season-long 51-yard field goal with 9:18 to go.
BC’s defense forced a three-and-out, giving the Eagles the ball at their 23. Williams busted a 57-yard run, shedding three tacklers, for a first down at the New Mexico State 19. But the drive stalled and the Eagles settled for a 39-yard field goal by Freese and a 6-3 lead with 5:54 left.
The Eagles opened up a 10-point lead on their next possession when Rettig executed a perfect play-action pass to tight end Mike Naples, who made a clean release off the line of scrimmage, hauled in a quick-hit pass, and ran 69 yards untouched for his first career touchdown, capping a three-play, 80-yard drive with 2:49 left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, New Mexico State used a wildcat offense to go on a seven-play, 84-yard scoring march that culminated with Andrew McDonald’s 14-yard toss to Franklin. It pulled the Aggies within 13-10 with 8:25 to go in the half.
The Eagles answered with an 11-play, 75-yard drive highlighted by Williams’s 26-yard run off right tackle on third and 7. It culminated with Rettig’s 7-yard toss to 6-foot-3-inch sophomore Harrison Jackson, whose first career TD catch gave BC a 20-10 lead with 3:05 to go.
The Aggies, who seemed to gain confidence on offense, overcame a pair of false starts to go 75 yards in nine plays. Xavier Hall converted a third-and-5 with a 10-yard touchdown run with one second left on the clock. It pulled the Aggies within 20-17.
The Eagles seemed to give themselves a bit of breathing room when they came out in the second half and went 75 yards in eight plays to take a 27-17 lead on Rettig’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Alex Amidon. The catch made Amidon BC’s all-time leader in receiving yardage, supplanting Rich Gunnell (2,459 yards, from 2006-08) atop the list.
New Mexico State refused to go away and came roaring back on a six-play, 68-yard drive to pull within 27-24 when McDonald hit Jerrel Brown on a 16-yard TD pass with 7:35 left in the third quarter.
It was clear New Mexico State was not going to lie down and hand BC its first road win. That much was evident when the Aggies went 48 yards in 15 plays for a tying 32-yard field goal by Johnson with 10:39 left.
BC freshman Myles Willis seemed to break it open when he returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, the Eagles’ longest kickoff return since Jeff Smith’s 96-yarder for a TD against Clemson Sept. 9, 2006.
The Aggies, though, answered with a six-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with Franklin’s second TD of the game, a 49-yard catch-and-run that tied the game at 34 with 8:07 left.
After Amidon was stripped of the ball on a 15-yard catch, BC’s defense minimized the damage by forcing the Aggies to punt from their 44. Cayle Chapman-Brown pinned the Eagles at their 3 with a 53-yard punt.
With the Aggies crowding the box with nine men, Williams broke through the line of scrimmage and went 80 yards untouched for a 41-34 lead. Steven Daniels gave the ball back to the Eagles at midfield with his first career interception. Williams put the game out of reach with a 47-yard TD on his final carry.
It was enough to send the weary Eagles soaring back home under their own power.
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.