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Bernie Galiffa sometimes wonders what his record-setting 1972 season would have been like had he not stunk up the joint in West Virginia’s first two games of the year against Villanova and Richmond.
Former West Virginia University quarterback Bernie Galiffa
has died in Wilmington, N.C.
Galiffa was a two-year starter for coach Bobby Bowden, leading the Mountaineers to records of 7-4 in 1971 and 8-4 in 1972.
Teaming with such standout players as Danny Buggs, Marshall Mills, Nate Stephens and Kerry Marbury, Galiffa orchestrated the nation’s fourth-ranked scoring offense in 1972, the Mountaineers averaging 36.5 points per game on the way to a Peach Bowl appearance in Atlanta against N.C. State.
That year Galiffa completed 164-of-334 passes for 2,496 yards and 17 touchdowns to become the first quarterback in school history to throw for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
“Bernie had a heck of an arm,” recalled WVU teammate Randy Flinchum. “He had the skinniest legs on the team; was bowlegged, but he could really throw the football.”
His school passing record lasted 26 years until Marc Bulger eclipsed it in 1998, and it still remains the fifth best single-season passing performance in school history.
West Virginia finished sixth in the country in passing in 1972, averaging 227.8 yards per game, and eighth in total offense averaging 411.9 yards per game.
Galiffa had the best game of his Mountaineer career in a 28-19 loss to Penn State in Morgantown during his senior year in 1972. He passed for a career-best 341 yards with two touchdowns after beginning the game by throwing interceptions on his first two pass attempts.
The 5-foot-11, 184-pounder also passed for 304 yards and a pair of touchdowns in West Virginia’s 38-20 romp of rival Pitt, as well as a 298-yard, four-TD performance in West Virginia’s 48-10 runaway victory over Virginia.
Galiffa threw for 1,543 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior.
For his career, Galiffa completed 310-of-623 pass attempts for 4,426 and 28 touchdowns. He ranks eighth in school history in pass attempts, ninth in passing yards, 11th in pass completions and 12th in total plays.
Galiffa’s 89-yard touchdown pass to Chris Potts against Duke in 1971 is the third-longest pass play in school history.
Following Galiffa’s departure in 1972, Bowden’s West Virginia teams struggled in 1973 and 1974, primarily because of inconsistent play at the quarterback position until Dan Kendra stabilized things in 1975, the year WVU defeated N.C. State in the Peach Bowl.
Galiffa was a standout prep quarterback at Donora (Pa.) High from 1965-67, breaking Joe Namath’s Western Pennsylvania passing records by completing 88-of-149 passes for 1,873 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior.
Galiffa spent his first two seasons at WVU in 1969 and 1970 backing up starting quarterback Mike Sherwood. He was the nephew of famous Army All-American quarterback Arnold "Pope" Galiffa.
“Bernie always had a smile on his face,” said Flinchum.
For years, Galiffa was a fixture in the Wheeling area as a salesman at Straub Automotive prior to moving to Wilmington, N.C. in 2000 to work for Bruce Cavanaugh Auto, one of the largest auto dealers in North Carolina before it went out of business in 2009.
Galiffa, 63, remained in Wilmington with his wife Rose. He has three daughters, ages 41, 31 and 16.