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Bulls Beat: USF-UConn rivalry has odd history

TAMPA — On Oct. 28, 2000, the University of South Florida football team won at Connecticut, 21-13. USF’s 4-year-old program registered its first victory against an opponent from the Football Bowl Subdivision.

At that moment, UConn seemed destined to be remembered as a special place in USF football lore.

Who knew what was actually in Storrs for the Bulls?

Since the Huskies began playing at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, in an era when USF and UConn became conference foes, it has become a house of horrors for the Bulls.

Four trips, mostly with USF as a favorite. Four defeats, many in bizarre fashion.

USF coach Willie Taggart, whose Bulls (1-4) face a Huskies program (0-4) still reeling from the firing of Coach Paul Pasqualoni, said he wasn’t interested in a history lesson.

“Our goal is much bigger than 13 years ago (at UConn) and whatever happened after then,’’ Taggart said. “This is 2013 now. We’ve got to go play football.

“There was a lot of weird stuff that happened then (in previous games at UConn)? There’s a lot of weird stuff that happened this year. Weird stuff happens all the time. We can’t get caught up in (past games).’’

* 2005: UConn 15, USF 10 — The Bulls lost their shot at a winner-take-all matchup with West Virginia for the Big East Conference title and a BCS bowl bid. On fourth-and-goal from the UConn 6-yard line with 6:08 remaining, the Bulls called “Voodoo 5,’’ a trick play, but receiver Courtney Denson was dumped for a 13-yard loss as he looked for a throw-back pass to quarterback Pat Julmiste.

* 2007: UConn 22, USF 15 — The No. 11-ranked Bulls, who had been ranked No. 2 nationally two weeks earlier, fell behind 16-0. But they were in position to win, lining up for third-and-goal from UConn’s 1-yard line. Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe, running a naked bootleg that offensive coordinator Greg Gregory later described as a “dumb call,’’ was trapped for an 11-yard loss. Grothe’s desperation fourth-down pass was incomplete. And that was that.

* 2009: UConn 29, USF 27 — On a cold and snowy evening, the Bulls had seemingly pulled it out on an 8-yard touchdown run by freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels with 40 seconds remaining. But the Huskies took advantage of a short kickoff and positioned place-kicker Dave Teggart for a 42-yard field goal at the buzzer.

* 2011: UConn 16, USF 10 — USF’s defense limited UConn to 253 yards and three field goals. But the Bulls committed four turnovers, including a lost fumble at the UConn 9-yard line and a 10-yard fumble-return touchdown by the Huskies.

“The only game I’m interested in (is Saturday afternoon),’’ Taggart said. “No matter what kind of game it is, we have to play well in order to win and we have to stay away from mistakes.’’

USF’s UConn history already has proven that.

Bulls Hoops Fest

Fans can get their first peek at the USF men’s and women’s basketball teams Friday night during Bulls Hoops Fest, a free event at the Sun Dome from 7-9 p.m. The men will play a 10-minute scrimmage, while the women will run through some drills.

Jose Fernandez’s women’s team has high expectations after nearly making last season’s NCAA tournament Sweet 16, losing a second-round overtime game against California, an eventual Final Four team. Meanwhile, Stan Heath’s men’s team (12-19 last season) is banking on big contributions from a six-player recruiting class.

There’s a particular curiosity about freshman big men Chris Perry (6-foot-8, 241 pounds) of Bartow High) and John Egbunu (6-10, 249), who has a 40-inch-plus vertical leap and can touch the top of the backboard, according to Heath.

The USF women open at home against Maryland on Nov. 8, while the men host Tennessee Tech on Nov. 9.

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