TAMPA — As a football program, USF has been fortunate to generally dodge the most painful of losses. In their 15 seasons, the Bulls have just four games in which an opponent has kicked a winning field goal in the final minute.
Connecticut kicker Dave Teggart has done just that in each of the past two seasons, the only Bulls opponent to do so since 2003. USF revisits the site of that first heartbreaker Saturday at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
"I guess I have their number," Teggart said Tuesday by phone, preparing for the Huskies' homecoming game against the Bulls. "They're a good team, and I think, for what it's worth, that it's going to be a close game, and maybe it will come down to a field goal again. If you're a kicker and you're afraid of close games, you're in the wrong position."
In 2009, Teggart hit a 42-yarder in the snow as time expired to turn a 27-26 USF lead into a 29-27 Huskies victory, this after USF, once down 20-7 in the second half, had scored the go-ahead touchdown with 40 seconds left. Last year, Teggart clinched a BCS bowl berth for the Huskies, hitting a 52-yarder with 17 seconds left for a 19-16 win after USF had erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, tying the score on a field goal with 1:17 left.
In both cases, Teggart's kicks came in the final minute of not only the game but the entire regular season, with those field goals being the difference between USF finishing 4-3 in conference or 3-4, as the Bulls did both times. So you can understand how USF might be motivated to keep Saturday's game out of, say, field-goal range in the closing minutes.
"It's not a revenge factor. I'm not going to say it that way," coach Skip Holtz said. "This team knows they beat us last year. … It was a hard way to lose. I think that game will definitely play in the backs of the minds of the players, from what happened a year ago."
Such a last-minute loss has happened just two other times to USF, in games far less significant. The Bulls lost 22-19 to UAB in 2003 on a 42-yard kick with nine seconds remaining, and in 2001, the Bulls lost 20-17 to Northern Illinois on a 42-yard kick as time expired.
USF's first-ever loss came in similar fashion. In 1997, the Bulls lost 10-7 to the Citadel on a 35-yarder with two minutes left.
Teggart has other huge kicks — he hit a winner in overtime against West Virginia in 2009 — but one of his first memories of such an opportunity was one that got away. At Notre Dame that same season, he hit a tying kick with 1:10 left but missed a 23-yarder with three seconds left that would have won it. UConn went on to win in overtime.
"After that, I refocused myself, and ever since then, knocking on wood, I haven't missed one of those yet," Teggart said. "It's one of those things where you had it in your hand. You've seen the guys play for 60 minutes, they're out there dying, looking for one pick-me-up. If you can't give it to them, it's tough."
Teggart said that as he lined up for last year's winning kick, with a BCS berth and a share of the conference championship on the line, he hadn't thought that he would be beating the same team in nearly the same fashion two years in a row. He said he'll try to tune out that same story line Saturday, knowing any mental distraction can keep history from repeating itself.
"The nature of my position, the second you really think about anything like that, anything at all other than the mission at hand, that's when problems start to happen," he said.