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Boston College's AJ Dillon impresses in Pinstripe Bowl despite running 'kind of like on ice'

ACC Freshman of the Year rushed for 154 yards in loss to Iowa

Boston College Eagles running back AJ Dillon runs as Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Ben Niemann (44) and defensive end Parker Hesse (40) pursue during Wednesday's Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)
Boston College Eagles running back AJ Dillon runs as Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Ben Niemann (44) and defensive end Parker Hesse (40) pursue during Wednesday's Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)

NEW YORK – AJ Dillon is a name worth remembering.

Despite his team’s 27-20 loss to Iowa, the Boston College running back turned in a headline-worthy performance in the media capital of the world Wednesday night in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

In a game in which players from both teams struggled with their footing on frozen ground, the true freshman nonetheless rushed for 157 hard-earned yards and a touchdown, perhaps launching his campaign for a future Heisman Trophy.

“Unless we play them in a bowl game, we won’t have to play him again for the next three years, which is just fine with me,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “He looked really good on film, and then, certainly tonight, we didn’t tackle him really well.

“His numbers speak for themselves.”

Dillon finished his first season in Chestnut Hill, Mass., with 1,589 rushing yards – the second-highest total for a freshman running back in ACC history – and 14 touchdowns. (Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams ran for 1,655 yards in 2009.)

“Our place is about the team, the team, the team, and that’s not going to change,” said BC Coach Steve Addazio. “I feel good about how AJ will handle the accolades and the attention.”

Dillon was not made available to the media following the game.

“He’s a high-character, great kid,” said Addazio. “We have a pretty centered, balanced team. I think, as a whole, our place is very balanced, and I think our kids have a tendency to be really balanced.

“Our program is wired in such a way that, you know, a big ego is not going to survive.”

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Dillon, a native of New London, Conn., only played four games as a senior in high school at Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass., due to a season-ending leg injury. Furthermore, he was only ranked 38th and 39th – by ESPN and Scout.com, respectively – among the best scholastic running backs in the country.

Although Addazio did not blame the loss on weather conditions, he lamented the effect the freezing temperatures had on the Eagles’ speed.

“Our whole thing is speed, and I felt like we were pattering on ice out there,” he said. “I thought for a guy like AJ – who is a hard, put-your-foot-in-the-ground guy – it was hard on him out there tonight. He was kind of like on ice.

“When you get a good power back like that who wants to plant and drive as hard as he wants to plant and drive, it becomes a bit more difficult.”

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