It was very sad to learn that Bernie Galiffa, one of the most outstanding quarterbacks in West Virginia University football history, had passed away.
The three-year letterman for famed coach Bobby Bowden died last Thursday in Wilmington, N.C., at the age of 63.
After backing up Mike Sherwood in 1970, Galiffa took over as the starter and guided the Mountaineers to a record of 7-4 as a junior in 1971 and 8-4 as a senior.
He was named a team captain before he finished.
Danny Buggs was his All-America No. 1 receiver and Kerry Marbury was his top running back. Galiffa exhibited his excellence as one of the mo memorable passers in the university’s history.
Among his numerous other achievements, Galiffa orchestrated the nation’s No. 4-ranked NCAA Division I scoring offense in 1972. His Mountaineers averaged 36.5 points a game.
West Virginia, in Bowden’s third year at the helm, earned a berth in the 1972 Peach Bowl at Atlanta. North Carolina State prevailed 49-13 in that game. But WVU got revenge against the Wolfpack and its same coach, Lou Holtz, in the 1975 Peach Bowl matchup, 13-10.
Mike Sherwood, now a retired high school principal and head football coach living in Bellaire, Ohio, recalled on Wednesday how wonderful his former signal-calling teammate was.
“Bernie Galiffa was just one year behind me, and we spent a lot of time together,” Sherwood said. “My freshman year was 1967 and his was 1968. Each of us had to play on a freshman team (before joining the varsity team).
“Bernie was a really good guy. Everybody liked him very much. He’d always ask me about something and I’d tell him happily.”
The two got together on occasion at reunion events, along with Coach Bowden, after graduating from the university.
Doug Huff, the widely known retired sports editor of the Wheeling Intelligencer, remembers that Galiffa spent at least 20 years as a very successful automobile salesman in Wheeling.
“We’d see him walk past the newspaper offices on his way to work. Everyone admired Bernie as a great quarterback and passer.”
As a senior, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Donora, Pa., native completed 164 of 334 passes for 2,496 yards and 17 touchdowns. In that 1972 process, he became the first WVU QB in school history to pass for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
His record lasted 26 years before Marc Bulger broke it in 1998. But it now still ranks fifth best in single-season passing performances in school history.
WVU finished sixth nationally in passing in 1972 with an average of 227.8 yards per game. It also was eighth in total offense averaging 411.9 yards per game.
Ironically, Galiffa had his best performance of his career in a 28-19 loss to old rival Penn State in 1972. He passed for a career-high of 341 yards and two touchdowns after his first two attempts were interceptions.
Happily, two other games he did win against longtime rivals come to mind. Galiffa had 334 yards passing and two TDs in a 38-20 victory against Pitt and 299 yards and four scores in a 48-10 rout of Virginia.
For his career, Galiffa completed 310 of 623 passes for 4,426 yards and 28 touchdowns. He currently ranks eighth in school history in pass attempts, ninth in passing yards, 11th in pass completions and 12th in total plays.
His 89-yard touchdown pass to Chris Potts against Duke in 1971 is the third-longest pass play completion in WVU football history.
We’ll miss Bernie Galiffa.