Vince Ferragamo ranks 10th in career-passing yardage at Nebraska, even though he played only two seasons for the Huskers and threw fewer passes than anyone ahead of him on the list.
“Vince was a very good passer,” Coach Tom Osborne has said. And so he was, good enough to play nine seasons in the NFL, good enough to start five playoff games and one Super Bowl.
During his time, “we ran a limited amount of option,” said Osborne.
The reason? “Primarily because Vince wasn’t the fastest guy in the world,” Osborne said.
Ferragamo’s time at Nebraska was 1974, when he redshirted, through 1976. He was a full-time starter only as a senior, sharing the job with senior Terry Luck as a junior. He earned All-America recognition from the Football News as well as first-team Academic All-America honors in 1976.
Nebraska recruited Ferragamo out of Banning High in Los Angeles, playing for his brother Chris. But he opted for California, where he shared time with Steve Bartkowski, an All-American in 1974.
Ferragamo spent that season practicing with the Husker scout team – on which he played during preparation for a Sugar Bowl match-up against No. 18 Florida. Nebraska was ranked No. 8.
As he watched the game unfold from the sideline, he must’ve wondered if the Husker offense would be a good fit. Quarterback Dave Humm struggled to the worst performance of his career, completing 2-of-12 passes, both to wingback Don Westbrook, for 16 yards, with four interceptions.
The Gators capitalized on the first interception and turned it into a touchdown 5 minutes into the first quarter. They added a field goal in the second quarter for a 10-0 halftime lead.
In the fourth quarter, Humm gave way to Luck, who would throw only two passes, both incomplete. Early in the quarter, after cornerback Jim Burrow made a stop on fourth-and-goal at the Nebraska 1-yard line, Luck directed a 99-yard touchdown drive, without a pass.
Freshman I-back Monte Anthony finished off the drive from 2 yards out.
About 6 minutes later, Mike Coyle kicked a 37-yard field goal to tie the score, and with 4:08 remaining, the Huskers gained possession at their own 25-yard line.
They moved to the Florida 22-yard line, the big play a 40-yard run by Tony Davis, who had agreed to move to fullback after playing I-back and rushing for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore. On fourth down, with 1:46 remaining, Coyle, the Huskers’ first soccer-style kicker, nailed a 39-yard field goal.
The bowl victory was Nebraska’s sixth in a row, tying an NCAA record.
The Huskers rushed for 304 yards – Luck carried twice for 9 yards.
Nebraska would open 1975, Osborne’s third season, against LSU at Memorial Stadium, without Ferragamo, whom the NCAA suspended for one game because he had traveled to the bowl as a transfer redshirt. Defensive end Ray Phillips, a transfer from Marshalltown (Iowa) Junior College in 1974, also was ineligible for the opener because he had gone to the Sugar Bowl, as were Burrow, a transfer from Mississippi, and defensive tackle Dean Gissler, who transferred from the Air Force Academy.
Gissler and Burrow had traveled to the Orange Bowl as redshirts in 1972. Both were seniors, and had earned two letters, in 1975. All four had practiced on the scout team at the bowl games. Even so, the NCAA decided taking them along was illegal. In 1975, it also instituted a rule limiting the number of players who could suit up for regular-season games, home or away, to 60.
Tom's Time is 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.
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.