TAMPA — USF receivers coach Phil McGeoghan's family included some huge Notre Dame fans as he grew up in Massachusetts, and his uncle, David Killeen, was buried with a Notre Dame ballcap after suffering a fatal heart attack while watching a Notre Dame football game five years ago.
And McGeoghan, seeking a little extra luck for Saturday's game at Notre Dame, sought his late uncle's help. His uncle loved to golf, so he took a golf tee, inscribed his uncle's initials, "DK," on the tee, then bent down and buried it by the back of one end zone, near the goalposts.
"I said it would bring us luck," McGeoghan said. "There were a lot of people where you come out the one tunnel, where Touchdown Jesus is, so I went to the other end zone. It was the end zone where Evan (Landi) caught that ball. Probably 5 feet from there."
USF's only touchdown in the 23-20 win at Notre Dame came when Landi caught a 2-yard touchdown jump pass from B.J. Daniels, what turned out to be the winning margin. And it's the end zone that Notre Dame was perhaps a yard away from on the opening drive when USF's Jerrell Young forced a fumble from Notre Dame's Jonas Gray and Kayvon Webster returned it 96 yards for a touchdown.
It's worth mentioning, too, that Landi wears No. 9, the same jersey number that Skip Holtz wore during his one season as a walk-on at Notre Dame 25 years ago.
Religion was a big part of Holtz's student experience at Notre Dame, and it was with a nod to a football tradition there that he had tiny silver medals made for each of the football players, each medal bearing the image of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes.
"We gave a medal to the team every week (when he played at Notre Dame), and the priests blessed the medals," Holtz said. "One of the things you always had to remember each game by was the medal that you received.
"We gave everybody on the (USF) team at Friday's walkthrough a medal of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes and the never-say-die strength that he had as an athlete, a Christian."
The medals have St. Sebastian on one side, with the words "Pray for Us" on the other side. Holtz invited his pastor at Christ the King, Father David Toups, to speak with the team last week, then he had him travel with the team to South Bend, where he watched the game on the sideline.
"I told him I was bringing our priest to level the playing field with Catholicism," said Holtz, who still had USF's longtime chaplain, David Lane, preside over the team's church services Saturday morning. "I thought he had a great message for them, just as the role models that they are to so many people in this community. (He said that) we were going to rain heaven on them that day."
Toups held a Mass for Catholic members of USF's staff and could be seen wearing a clerical collar on the visiting sideline, as well as a USF ballcap, despite warnings from Holtz.
"When I saw him with the Bulls hat on and his dress, I told him, 'Father Toups, I know I'm going to get booed. I understand that. I'm the visiting team at Notre Dame, wearing my South Florida stuff,' " Holtz said. " 'But you, as a priest with the South Florida hat on, they may throw things at you. You may want to think twice before you wear that on the field.' "
This and that: USF got $850,000 from Notre Dame to come to South Bend, making it the most lucrative win in Bulls history. USF got $650,000 to go to Auburn for the Bulls' win there in 2007. … One voter in the Associated Press went so far as to vote the Bulls No. 5 on his ballot; USF was no higher than 13th on any other ballot and went unranked by 23 of the 60 voters.