The carrot dangled in front of the workhorse worked wonders this past week.
Andre Williams wore a visor on his helmet the past two seasons, and he wanted to wear one again. Boston College coach Steve Addazio said the senior could have one, if he ran for more than 200 yards against Army.
After the big back easily surpassed that bar, carrying the ball 30 times for 263 yards and five scores, Addazio said Monday that he expects to hear from him as the team prepares for its matchup with No. 3 Clemson on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2).
“He’ll probably say something,” Addazio said with a laugh. “I’ll be like, ‘Why would you want a visor? It’s really gone as good as it can go for you, why would you jinx that?’ ”
Things couldn’t be going better for Williams this season. The 6-foot, 227-pound bruiser is leading the country in attempts (133), attempts per game (26.6), and rushing yards per game (153.6) through his first five games. He’s topped the 100-yard mark four times and the 200-yard mark two times.
He ranks in the top five nationally in rushes for 10-, 20- and 30-plus yards (with 23, 8 and 5, respectively), showing explosion as well as brute force.
And the Eagles have needed everything he’s given them.
At 3-2 (1-1 ACC), BC has already surpassed its win total from 2012, but it’s far from satisfied with that accomplishment. The Eagles want to get back to a bowl game, which had been familiar territory for the program in recent years but seemed miles away during the struggles that were the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Asked if it was gratifying to see Williams ranking among the national leaders in rushing, Addazio made it clear exactly what it means to the Eagles.
“Well, he has to be. For us to have success right now, it’s a big part of who we are,” he said. “So it’s great to see but it’s a reflection of a lot of people working. It’s a reflection of Chase Rettig, a reflection of our offensive line. And it really is. I’m not taking anything from Andre, I’m just being honest.
“I told you earlier in the season, we’ve got a pretty good offensive line. A lot of people would like to have this offensive line. They’re playing at a high level, and Andre’s a big, strong back and you see Myles [Willis] starting to have some success in there, as well, with Chase keeping [the defenses] honest with some play-actions here and there, managing the game the way he is, it’s a good combination.”
That combination has allowed BC to put up incrementally better numbers offensively as the season wears on. They’ve scored 24, 24, 7, 34 and 48 points. The increasing point totals coincide rather nicely with the team rushing totals: 128, 191, 101, 200, 320.
Before the year started, Williams set a personal goal of hitting 1,000 yards rushing this season. With seven games left, he needs only 232 yards to hit that mark -- an average of 33.14 yards a game.
If he continues at his current pace for the next seven games, Williams will not only break the 1,000-yard mark but may also threaten Mike Cloud’s BC record for rushing yards in a single season (1,726 in 1998).
That all reinforces Addazio’s decision to take Williams out of the game Saturday one yard shy of the BC single-game rushing record (264 by Montel Harris against NC State in October 2009). The Eagles coach was asked Monday if he would’ve given Williams another shot at the record if he’d known how close the senior was.
Bottom line: Addazio said he's too important to risk for an individual accomplishment.
“I pulled him out because I didn’t want to get him hurt,” Addazio said. “So I always look at it through the eyes of we’ve gotta get ready for the next game. For me to put a guy back in and risk an injury to one of our top players to get that, God forbid that something happen to him.
“I’m not sure what I would’ve done if I had known, but I’m very hesitant to put a guy in a situation [where he could] get hurt. I can’t answer that. I’m more interested in winning and I’m more interested in the team. And so’s Andre. That’s not on my radar. But had someone told me, maybe I would’ve given him one more shot in there. I don’t know. It’s hard to say.”
Addazio said he agonizes over that kind of decision, when to pull a player and when to leave that player in and risk injury.
“Once I make my mind up [to take a player out] I have a hard time going back,” he said. “Because how would I explain that to him? To his family? To [the media]? How would I explain that? I mean, injuries happen, they’re a part of the game. But when I purposely put him in for that purpose, can you just imagine that if God forbid something happened? I’d feel like that’s completely on my shoulders.”
For his part, Williams said the right things after the game. He said the yards and records (his five TDs tied Harris’ single-game record) will come if the offense executes the way it did Saturday against the Black Knights.
“I don’t necessarily care too much about the records,” Williams said. “If we can [execute like that] again, that means I have seven more opportunities to go get the record.”
Could the Eagles find room to run against Clemson on Saturday? It’s possible. The Tigers allowed 323 rushing yards to Syracuse on Saturday, though they were comfortably ahead all afternoon and gave up only 14 points (while scoring 49).
And while Addazio is a man of his word and Williams can wear a visor on his helmet if he really wants to, the coach remains skeptical.
“All I know is this, you had the best rushing day of your entire career without one, maybe you better keep it that way,” he said with a smile. “That’d be the way my mind would work.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.