Tom's Time
Photo Credit: Randy Hampton

Tom’s Time: Humm Keeps the Huskers’ Offense Humming

November 28, 2017

Dave Humm was a 5-star recruit long before star rankings were used in evaluation. Coach Bear Bryant enlisted Joe Namath to persuade Humm to accept Alabama’s scholarship offer, but Bob Devaney landed him with the help of a long-time friend, Marvin Sillman.

“Without the help of Marvin Sillman, Dave Humm would have probably been playing for Alabama or some other school,” Devaney wrote in his 1981 autobiography.

Sillman worked at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, where Humm’s dad, Claire, was a cashier. Claire Humm had confidence in what Sillman told him about Devaney and Nebraska, how it would be the best fit for his son, a quarterback with a strong left arm.

Among the few times the NCAA investigated the Huskers during his 11 years as head coach was over the recruitment of Humm, Devaney wrote. His senior year in high school, Humm went to El Paso, Texas, for Nebraska’s Sun Bowl game against Georgia in December of 1969.

While there, Humm ate with the team and rode the team bus to practice. “It seemed pretty minor to me,” wrote Devaney. “But we got reprimanded for it.”

After playing for the freshman team in 1970, Humm redshirted and then stepped into the lineup, setting school records by passing for 2,074 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Fast forward to his senior season, Tom Osborne’s second as head coach, 1974. Nebraska was No. 4 in the Associated Press preseason rankings, climbing to No. 4 after opening with a 61-7 victory against Oregon, dropping to No. 10 after a 21-20 loss at Wisconsin, and climbing back to No. 5 before losing its Big Eight opener for the second season in a row to Missouri, this time at Memorial Stadium, 21-10.

The Huskers led Missouri 10-0 midway through the fourth quarter. The Tigers scored three touchdowns in the final 6:56, capitalizing on turnovers.

Humm missed most of the second half after suffering a concussion.

Nebraska was ranked No. 12 when it traveled to Lawrence, Kansas, to play the 4-1 and 13th-ranked Jayhawks. Humm was back and in top form, completing 23-of-27 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns, all to senior wingback Donny Westbrook. During one stretch, beginning in the second quarter and carrying into the third, Humm completed 15 consecutive passes, an NCAA record.

The completion percentage (.852) was a Big Eight record.

The Husker defense was similarly impressive, limiting Kansas to 143 yards and four first downs, also recovering a fumble and intercepting two passes. The final score was 56-0.

The Kansas victory was the first of five in a row as Nebraska moved to No. 6 prior to its final regular-season game against Oklahoma at Memorial Stadium, five days before Thanksgiving.

The Sooners were 9-0 and ranked No. 1. They had outscored their opponents on average of 45-7. Among their victories were two by 63-0 and another by 72-3.

Even though the Huskers couldn’t contain Oklahoma’s Wishbone, they were tied at the half, 7-7, and led 14-7 for about 7 minutes of the third quarter. But the Sooners scored 21 unanswered points, 14 of them in the fourth quarter, for a 28-14 victory on the way to a national championship.

Humm passed to split end Chuck Malito for Nebraska’s first touchdown and caught a halfback pass from John O’Leary for the second. But Humm was intercepted three times, the Huskers four total.

Oklahoma, which was 0-for-2 passing, rushed for 482 yards, with three Sooners gaining 100 yards: fullback Jim Littrell, halfback Joe Washington and quarterback Steve Davis.

Nebraska would finish No. 8 in the regular-season rankings.

Humm completed 104-of-175 passes for 1,435 yards and 12 touchdowns, with eight interceptions in 1974 to earn All-America and first-team All-Big Eight recognition. He left Nebraska with a majority of the school’s passing records, including 5,035 career yards and 41 touchdowns.

Those records have since been broken.

He also held the single-season record for passing yardage, 2,074, and tied the single-season record for touchdown passes, 17, in 1972, Devaney’s last as head coach. Osborne was Devaney’s offensive coordinator. He just didn’t have the title.

The Husker offense was pass-oriented, a perfect fit for Humm. “Dave was a great pure passer, very accurate, good timing . . . he was a very, very fine passer,” Osborne has said.

So was his successor, California transfer Vince Ferragamo.


Tom's Time, a regular feature that will take a closer look at the life of Tom Osborne. Nebraska has a storied history in football that dates back to the earliest years of the game, but the tradition to which Husker fans hold Nebraska is mostly a reference to Osborne's 25 years as head coach. And that will always be worth exploring in greater detail. Click here for all of the entries in the series.

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