Late field goals, penalties and referee controversy: Coaches talk worst losses

College coaches: Worst loss of my career (2:06)

Mental miscues, miraculous plays and officiating controversy make up the most memorable moments in college football. Coaches on the wrong side of history remember what it was like to lose those games. (2:06)

Coaches always say they remember the losses more than the wins. So we decided to ask coaches about the worst losses of their careers. (Sorry, guys.) Not surprisingly, most instantly had one that stood out and they could recall with precise detail what went wrong. Some were years ago at lower-level schools, while in the case of Clemson's Dabo Swinney, it was the most recent game he played.

Here's a sampling of the worst losses from Power 5 coaches' careers:

Gus Malzahn, Auburn: Two HS state championships + Florida State 34, Auburn 31, 2014
The worst coaching loss of my career, there's a couple that stand out -- two when I was in high school. Our two state championship games we lost, one was in double overtime. The other one was at the very end, and then probably the Florida State game from 2013. Those three really stick with me. I think about those once a week. One, 1994, that was the first place I coached, and we lost 17-13 at the very end. The other one, when Rhett Lashlee was my quarterback and we lost in double overtime to a team that we probably should've beat. And of course the Florida State (national championship) game when they threw a touchdown toward the very end. Those were the three. It motivates you. The only time I think about the championship (we won) is when somebody brings it up, but once a week I think about [those losses] and it just motivates you as a coach.

David Cutcliffe, Duke: Miami 30, Duke 27, 2015
Miami, 2015. Our team did an incredible job of getting a win and then I've never experienced anything like that. Hopefully never will again. That's without a doubt, no hesitation. There's not a close second.

Bobby Petrino, Louisville: Rutgers 28, Louisville 25, 2006
Rutgers, 2006. We win that game, we have an opportunity to probably play for the national championship. We were in control of the game and they came back in the second half. They kicked a last-second field goal, which he missed. We jumped offsides. They got to kick it again. It was one of those things that was devastating to our team at the time, but very proud about how we came back and didn't lose another game that year.

Dave Clawson, Wake Forest: Youngstown State 37, Villanova 34, 1997
1997, Villanova. We were 12-0 and the No. 1 team in the country and we played Youngstown State that year in the second round of the playoffs. We had a punt blocked. We got sacked and they picked it up and returned it for a touchdown and we lost a heartbreaking game to Youngstown, who went on to win a national championship. Even 20 years later, that one still stings. That was probably a team that was good enough to win a national championship and we beat ourselves against a very well-coached team.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson: Alabama 45, Clemson 40, 2016
January 11. That one is still with me.

Mark Richt, Miami: Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2, 2001
The last game I coached at Florida State as the offensive coordinator playing in the national championship game against Oklahoma. We scored a whopping zero points. Our defense scored two. I didn't coach well. We didn't play well. It was a chance to be right there to win a third national championship for Coach Bowden. In the last game there it would have been a nice way to finish.

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech: Southern Miss 49, Houston 28, 2011
I was at the University of Houston in 2011, we were 12-0, we were going to go to the Sugar Bowl and we lost in the Conference USA championship game at home to Southern Miss. We were really good. We should've went undefeated and we kinda choked. That one still haunts me, yeah.

Bill Snyder, Kansas State: Texas A&M 36, Kansas State 33, 1998
You have enough losses that all of them are painful. My guesstimate right now without thinking about it is probably the conference championship game in the '98 season ... where we were the No. 1 team in the nation and played in the conference championship game, had a 16-point lead or something like that going into the fourth quarter and lost the ballgame. That was pretty disappointing.

Kirby Smart, Georgia: Auburn 10, LSU 9, 2004
It's hard because you remember the losses so vividly. I guess from being at Alabama for nine years, you certainly remember a lot of the losses, but I guess that being my first year as a full-time SEC coach (at LSU). So I go from being a GA to being a -- because they had just won the national title, so my expectation was we're going to win another one at LSU. We had a lot of the players back, and this first really, really big game, in Jordan-Hare, and we had the game won. Everything had to happen exactly right for [Auburn] to win and there was like four or five plays in a row that were really crazy freaky plays. If that game comes back up on ESPN Classic, I'll see it, and I'm like, 'That is amazing that those four things happened for the outcome to be what it did.' They went on to an undefeated season. I guess if they had lost four or five games it wouldn't have been as big of a loss, but it's a fact that they went on to win them all. I'll be honest with you, when I say it haunts me, it's one of the ones that sticks out the most, because I thought we could've won it.

As told to Heather Dinich and Jared Shanker