SYRACUSE — A.J. Dillon lowered his shoulder into a group of Syracuse football defenders several yards short of the goal line and continued to drive his legs, carrying the pack for a Herculean third-quarter touchdown that embodied a dominant performance and sent many of the 42,857 SU football fans home early from the Carrier Dome on Saturday.
Dillon ran for 242 yard and three touchdowns on 35 carries to lead a Boston College rushing attack that gained 496 yards on the ground overall — the most ever allowed by an SU defense — en route to a 58-27 Atlantic Coast Conference victory in the 53rd all-time matchup between former Big East foes.
The Orange (3-6 overall, 0-5 ACC) will enter its second bye week as the only ACC team without a conference victory and is still searching for its first win against an opponent from a power-five conference. SU will next play at a time to be determined on Nov. 16 at Duke.
“In that locker room, we’ve got a bunch of guys that are hurting along with a bunch of coaches and a bunch of other members of the family,” SU coach Dino Babers said. “We’ve got to find something to hang our hat on, we’ve got to get into this break and dig deep and find something out about ourselves, and hopefully bring something to the surface that we can be proud of the next time we step on the football field.”
David Bailey added 172 yards rushing for Boston College (5-4, 3-3), including touchdown runs of 29 and 74 yards, and the Eagles carried the ball 65 times compared to just 10 pass attempts during the record-setting ground display.
The SU defense forced two early takeaways to help the Orange gain a 17-10 edge by the end of the first quarter, but Boston College then took over in commanding fashion.
The Eagles scored four touchdowns of 50-plus yards in the second quarter and outscored SU by 31 points in the period overall to take a 44-20 advantage into halftime.
Boston College quarterback Dennis Grosel threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Kobay White in stride to begin the onslaught, and found Zay Flowers open downfield for a 50-yard score on the next series. Dillon then broke through the middle untouched for a 51-yard TD and Bailey’s 74-yard run on the next drive capped off the whirlwind sequence of long scoring plays.
Dillon opened the second half with the powerful push through three SU would-be tacklers for a five-yard TD run that extended the Eagles lead to 51-20 and sent many Orange fans to the exits after voicing their displeasure with a smattering of boos.
“We apologize to the fans for letting them down,” SU senior linebacker Andrew Armstrong said. “We feel that same heartache that they do, probably even worse. We’re super hard on ourselves and no one likes to lose, we don’t like to lose. The fans that stayed, that’s awesome and we’re very appreciative of the people that stick with us through thick and thin, but we apologize to the fans. We’ve got to be better.”
Dillon — a junior listed at 6-feet and 245 pounds who entered averaging 130.5 rushing yards per game for the fourth-best total among FBS backs — added a two-yard TD on another thunderous burst in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a powerful back and if you catch him at the line of scrimmage then it’s going to be a problem, and if you allow him to get any space with a full head of steam then he’s going to be hard to bring down,” SU safety Evan Foster said.
SU quarterback Tommy DeVito completed 25 of 36 passes for 289 yards and three touchdown passes, and Trishton Jackson finished with eight catches for 148 yards and two scores.
The duo connected on an 85-yard TD pass late in the third quarter, and a 26-yard TD in the first that gave SU an early 17-10 advantage. DeVito was sacked just three times after SU had surrendered an average of eight QB takedowns against ACC teams, with at least seven in each outing.
SU, which entered the season ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press and Coaches Poll, will need to win each of its final three games after the bye to gain bowl eligibility.
“I think just having faith, belief without evidence in each other, the offense trusting the defense and special teams and vise versa, trusting the coaches as well,” DeVito said. “I think this final stretch is going to come down to who wants it more.”