Dillon, Boston College run over UConn in Fenway Gridiron game
Boston — UConn expected to see a steady diet of AJ Dillon on Saturday night.
The Huskies got it until they lost their appetite for watching Dillon run over, through and past their defense.
Dillon, Boston College's standout true freshman from New London, piled up 200 yards on 24 carries and scored two touchdowns. It's the second time in his young career that he's gone over 200 yards and fourth 100-yard plus rushing game.
UConn dropped its fourth straight with a 39-16 loss on a rainy Saturday night before 20,133 fans at historic Fenway Park. Boston College (6-5) became bowl eligible in the Fenway Gridiron Series game.
It meant a great deal to Dillon to play at Fenway Park.
"This is an experience I'm not going to forget ever," Dillon said. "I'm grew up in Connecticut. I'm a Yankees fan, sorry. But I've seen a lot of Red Sox games at Fenway Park before. And I was actually at the Notre Dame game (against BC) two years ago. ... I got that opportunity and I just wanted to soak it in."
"It's definitely a special venue to be playing at. You've got to take advantage of the time that you have here. ... It was a cool experience."
The Huskies (3-8) still haven't beaten their New England neighbor, losing all 14 meetings in the series.
"That didn't go as planned," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "Some of the things that have occurred all year showed up again tonight."
After a strong first quarter, UConn gradually wore down and badly lost the battle at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles rushed for 330 yards overall. BC junior Jon Hilliman added 107 yards and two touchdown runs on 10 attempts.
In his third start, UConn quarterback David Pindell (14-for-33) had a rough outing, throwing three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. But he did throw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Hergy Mayala and finish with a career-high 241 passing yards.
Dillon delivered the manly play of the game just before halftime.
On first down from the the BC 47-yard line, Dillon raced outside and took off down the sideline. Several Huskies caught up with the 6-foot, 240-pound running back inside the five. But Dillon fought his way into the end zone, carrying a couple defenders the last few yards to complete the 53-yard scamper.
"I did whatever I could to try to get in there," Dillon said.
Dillon, who left New London after his freshman year to attend Lawrence Academy, has a reputation for not going down on first contact. It's something that his mother, Jessyca, emphasized during their backyard workouts and has stuck with him throughout his football career.
His tough guy touchdown handed BC a 14-3 lead with 3:07 left in the second quarter. He had 140 yards on 16 carries by halftime. Quarterback Darius Wade's 2-yard rollout pass to Chris Garrison while escaping pressure accounted for BC's other first half score.
UConn, on the other hand, sputtered badly after a productive first quarter during which they moved the ball into BC territory three times, including to the 12-yard line, and managed just three points.
Redshirt sophomore Michael Tarbutt's career-best 50-yard field goal capped off UConn's first drive. But his next attempt, from 30 yards, was blocked. Another possession ended with an interception.
Little seemed to work for the Huskies, who struggled to run and had little success with Pindell passing.
After piling up 168 yards in their first four drives of the game, the Huskies just 10 yards on their next five trips leading up to halftime.
"We're not built to go three and out and use less than a minute off the clock and put our defense right back out there," Edsall said. "That makes it hard."
The Eagles broke it open in the third quarter, scoring two quick touchdowns. They started their opening drive by running Dillon four straight times. He powered his way to 22 yards. Hilliman finished off the 60-yard drive by running through a huge hole and bolting free for a 38-yard touchdown run.
The mountain for UConn to climb became bigger.
BC junior Taj-Amir Torres picked off Pindell and raced 65 yards for a touchdown for a 27-3 lead. Over nine minutes still remained in the game.
Later in the third quarter, Dillon added a 20-yard touchdown run to go over the 200-yard mark for the game. He's the first player rush hit that mark against UConn since Ray Rice of Rutgers accomplished the feat in 2005. He earned a well-deserved rest, sitting out the fourth quarter.
Dillon, who has 1,239 rushing yards this season, moved into fourth place on the ACC all-time rushing list for freshmen.
"I looked at it earlier in the week, just some of those guys and how they panned out and the things that they did," Dillon said. "There's tremendous history behind the ACC. ... It is a good feeling to know that the work that I've been putting in, the work that the team has been putting in and offensive line, it's all coming together and it's coming out as a positive reward. That's what you really want."
UConn added a late touchdown on freshman Kevin Mensah's career-best 70-yard run. He broke the 100-yard mark for the second time in his career, finishing with 115 on 16 carries.
It was a disappointing result for the Huskies, who really looked forward to playing at Fenway Park for the first time.
"We were pumped up for it," senior Luke Carrezola said. "Playing in Fenway Park, it was awesome. ... We were excited and wanted to keep that mindset that they wouldn't be able to do what they wanted to do on us. But we weren't consistent enough and didn't get the job done."
The season will end on the road for the Huskies, who visit Cincinnati next Saturday. With a win, they can top last year's victory total.
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