Chalk it up to jitters or chalk it up to the buzz that comes with playing Florida State under the lights at Alumni Stadium on a Friday night, but Boston College freshman running back AJ Dillon couldn’t get to sleep the night before without picking the brain of veteran Jon Hilliman.
Dillon remembered the last time the Eagles took down a powerhouse in front of their home fans, in 2014 against a Southern Cal team ranked No. 9 in the country. He remembered watching fans flood the field once the clock wound down on the 37-31 upset. He wanted to know what it felt like.
Hilliman told him, “It’s one of those things that you’re never going to forget.”
Then Hilliman said he planted the seed that Dillon and the Eagles had a chance to do the same thing against Florida State.
“That was on my mind all [Thursday] night,” Dillon said. “I was just thinking how cool it would be.”
As the clock ticked down on the Eagles’ 35-3 win and BC turned out the lights on a Seminoles team that was defeated long before the scoreboard showed it, fans stormed the field. Caught in the swarm, Dillon took it all in.
“I feel like as a team, as a university, this was a really big win for us,” he said. “Just to see the whole community of Boston College come together like that after something we did great as a team, it felt really good. It hasn’t sunken in yet and I know looking back at it it’s going to be something that I remember forever, and I’m really grateful for that.”
This wasn’t the Florida State team with the high hopes that come with a No. 3 preseason ranking. This was a wounded Seminoles team, missing the firepower it was counting on and trying to stop its ship from sinking.
But the Eagles (5-4, 3-3 ACC) were riding a wave of confidence and momentum after wins against Louisville and Virginia, and that wave overwhelmed the Seminoles (2-5, 2-4).
Dillon put together his third 100-yard rushing performance of the season, piling up 149 yards on 33 carries with one touchdown.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Brown threw for one touchdown and ran for another before leaving in the third quarter after reaggravating a right shoulder injury.
For the third straight week, the Eagles put up at least 30 points. It was BC’s first time scoring 30-plus points in three straight games since 2003.
The Eagles snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Seminoles dating to 2009. The 32-point margin was the worst beating Florida State has ever taken at the hands of BC. And it was the first time the Seminoles failed to find the end zone since 2008.
“That was a beautiful win,” said BC coach Steve Addazio.
As recently as three weeks ago, Addazio had a hard time convincing anyone the Eagles would ever come into form. But despite defensive lineman Harold Landry being sidelined with an ankle injury, the Eagles still held the Seminoles to 64 rushing yards while forcing two fumbles, and allowed just 213 total yards.
“Sometimes things aren’t going the way everybody wants it to go and you’ve just got to stay steady in the boat like Coach Addazio says,” said BC linebacker Ty Schwab. “Even the fans need to do that. So them seeing us win these last three ACC games and coming home beating FSU, they were excited and we were excited, so it’s awesome to see that from our school.”
The Eagles took risks to jump ahead early. On second and 4 from the Florida State 34, a flea-flicker was called, with receiver Jeff Smith airing out a pass that Kobay White in the back of the end zone to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
In the second quarter, the Eagles took advantage of a pass-interference call on third and 1 against Seminoles defensive back Tarvarus McFadden. On second and goal from the 11, Brown lined up in the shotgun and made a quick throw to tight end Tommy Sweeney, who trucked defensive back Stanford Samuels on the way to the end zone to push the Eagles to a 14-0 lead.
In a two-score hole midway through the second quarter, the faces on the Florida State sideline showed more than just frustration. There was a season’s worth of disappointment, a look of defeat before it actually happened.
When Dillon ripped off a 39-yard run that set up BC at Florida State’s 17-yard line, Seminoles offensive lineman Andrew Boselli was on the bench barely able to keep his head upright. Four plays later, the night sunk to new depths for Florida State. On second and goal from the 4, Brown rolled to his right, found a lane between two defenders, and scored a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 21-0 lead.
It was the biggest first-half hole the Seminoles had been in all season.
Florida State got a 36-yard field goal from Ricky Aguayo with 44 seconds left in the first half, but the 21-3 lead BC took to the locker room was the Eagles’ largest halftime advantage of the season.
A 2-yard touchdown run by Dillon and a 1-yard score on a sneak from backup quarterback Darius Wade ultimately buried the Seminoles.
“We’re playing at a really good level right now and gaining confidence,” Addazio said. “There’s a resilience here. There’s a chemistry in our team, a very strong chemistry, and it’s a love for each other.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @julianbenbow