MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Defense has been Boston College's strength this season. When that didn't work on Saturday, a superb performance on special teams kept the Eagles in the hunt for their first Big East championship.
Paul Peterson threw two first-half touchdown passes and No. 21 Boston College returned two punts for scores to beat West Virginia (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 13 AP) 36-17 on Saturday.
Boston College (7-2, 3-1 Big East) can earn a share of the conference title by beating Temple and Syracuse in its final season before moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference next year.
"It is a huge leap for our program and school,"" said Boston College coach Tom O'Brien, whose team hadn't won in Morgantown since 1990.
The Mountaineers (8-2, 4-1) squandered a chance to clinch their first BCS bid and a tie for a second straight conference title. West Virginia lost in November for the first time under fourth-year coach Rich Rodriguez. It also had 10-game conference and home
winning streaks broken.
"We had destiny in our hands today. That's what is disappointing," Rodriguez said. "We didn't play like a good team. It will probably make us sick to watch the film."
It was supposed to be a battle between West Virginia's potent rushing attack and the Big East's top defense. Though West Virginia outgained Boston College 452-243, the contest was decided on special teams.
DeJuan Tribble returned a first-quarter punt 41 yards for a score and Will Blackmon went 71 yards for a TD with a punt return in the fourth quarter. They were the first punt returns for scores by the Eagles in two years.
"That was the defining factor," O'Brien said. "The two punt returns were huge. We broke some tackles and after that they were not going to catch us."
Eagles freshman Ryan Ohliger kicked field goals of 44, 47 and 36 yards.
Boston College quieted a capacity crowd with several long kickoff returns and pinned West Virginia deep in its own territory on many punts and kickoffs.
The Mountaineers fumbled away the second-half kickoff, leading to an Ohliger field goal for a 27-7 lead.
"Special teams were embarrassing," Rodriguez said. "Every time they started with the ball on offense, they had the ball past midfield. Every time we started the ball on offense, it seemed like we had to go 90 (yards)."
West Virginia worked too methodically to mount a comeback. An 18-play drive ended with Rasheed Marshall's 6-yard scoring pass to Chris Henry at the end of the third quarter.
That gave Henry a school-record 12 TD catches this season, breaking the mark of 11 set by Reggie Rembert in 1989.
Henry had catches of 41 and 20 yards on West Virginia's next drive, but the Eagles defense stopped the drive inside the BC 10. Brad Cooper kicked a short field goal to finish the scoring for the Mountaineers.
"We had a long field all day and it kind of hurt us," Marshall said.
Peterson was 18-of-30 for 162 yards, including a 10-yard TD pass to L.V. Whitworth on Boston College's first possession and a 1-yard scoring toss to David Kashetta just before halftime for a 24-7 lead.
"We were really clicking today," Peterson said. "I hope this game helps everyone realize what BC can do."
Marshall went 21-of-35 for 224 yards. Kay-Jay Harris rushed for 112 yards and Marshall had 100 on the ground.