You could clearly hear the groans inside Mountaineer Field when Don Nehlen sent his punt team onto the field with game tied 13-13 and the clock reading just 1:26 left in the game. The football was at the WVU 37 yard-line and a tie with Boston College now seemed likely.
Punter Steve Superick got off a booming, spiraling kick that sailed to the BC 19, where George Radachowsky fumbled. A fight for the football ensued and underneath the pile holding onto the football was backup Mountaineer fullback Tom Bowman.
Then with only 25 seconds left in the game, quarterback Jeff Hostetler scored a 2-yard touchdown to give 16th-ranked West Virginia a 20-13 victory.
“Sure there was some luck involved in the game,” Nehlen said afterward. “If their guy hadn’t fumbled, we wouldn’t have had a chance to recover the ball. But the more important point is, our kids believed something would happen, and it did.”
A similar play worked out for West Virginia the year prior at Maryland when Nehlen ordered his team to punt the ball back to the Terrapins late in a game the Mountaineers were losing. Some players complained on the sidelines, wanting instead to go for it. But Maryland fumbled the punt, setting up West Virginia’s winning score to make Nehlen look like a prophet.
“This time when I ordered my team to punt, there were no stares from the players like they thought I was loony,” said Nehlen. “They believed in what we were trying to do. The difference in the Maryland game a year ago and this one was that now my team wanted to punt the ball.”
Despite having two of the best quarterbacks in the country playing in the game – West Virginia’s Hostetler and Boston College’s Doug Flutie – it was the two defenses that dominated the afternoon.
West Virginia’s defense held Flutie to just 9 of 33 passing for 122 yards and four interceptions. Boston College’s only touchdown came as a result of a trick play – a fake field goal and pass from backup QB John Loughery for an 8-yard touchdown to Scott Nizolek.
Hostetler was not much better, hitting only 11 of 29 passes for 98 yards with an interception. WVU’s other TD came as a result of a 2-yard run from freshman tailback Tom Gray. Gray’s TD was set up by a Hostetler 19-yard swing pass to Gray out of the backfield.
Gray ran 21 times for 95 yards to lead the Mountaineers.
Boston College’s Steve Strachan finished the game with 89 yards on 20 carries.
The two teams combined for just 33 first downs and 496 yards of offense. There were a combined five interceptions and two fumbles.