Older, wiser at 19, WR Davis emerging for Bulls
TAMPA -- To appreciate what Andre Davis did Saturday in catching the winning touchdown in USF's last-minute comeback win at Nevada, remember that a year ago, he hadn't yet caught his first college pass.
"I was just young," said the Jefferson grad, who only turned 19 on the day of USF's season opener. "I've progressed a lot. I'm very confident in myself, very confident in the offense, very confident in my coaching. They progressed me so much, I feel like I'm ready to be on that big stage now ... I feel like I'm myself again. I can go out and do my thing."
In case you missed Saturday's game, Davis doing his thing meant resetting USF's receiving records for catches (12) and receiving yards (191), stepping up after junior Sterling Griffin was lost to what is now a season-ending knee injury. That makes Davis USF's clear top option in a deep group of receivers that has shown a penchant for the deep ball in USF's first two games.
Davis' two 50-yard touchdowns Saturday showed the range of skills he brings -- first a 52-yard touchdown on a short route where he spun past the initial defender then outran the entire defense down the sidelines, and then the game-winning 56-yarder with 38 seconds left, where he beat a Nevada defensive back down the sidelines, fought off a pass interference call and completed the Bulls' comeback without even looking back to see who the flag was on.
"He was draped all over me," Davis said nonchalantly. "I just go up and make plays like that."
In his first six college games, Davis had just four catches for 45 yards, but as injuries pressed him into a larger role, he caught 18 passes for 228 yards in the final six games, including a touchdown grab that for a moment looked a lot like Saturday's last catch. In a home game against Cincinnati in October, Davis caught a 10-yard touchdown with 1:28 left for a 34-30 lead, only to see the Bearcats grab the lead back with 12 seconds left. Remembering that, his favorite part of his record-setting day was that it came in a Bulls victory.
And as the Bulls prepare for a national spotlight Thursday night with Rutgers in town and ESPN's audience tuning in, the Jefferson grad is proud to represent his hometown in a key Big East opener.
"It's awesome to be able to be from Tampa and to come to USF and be a part of something so big in Tampa," Davis said. "It means a lot to me, because I can come out here and do it for my hometown, my home city."
BOWL BASH: Thursday will be USF's annual "Bowl Bash," where representative from all the BCS series bowl games as well as all the bowls with Big East ties will be in attendance to get a firsthand look at the Bulls, who hope for the Big East's BCS berth but could also land the league's No. 2 spot at the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando.
THIS AND THAT: Defensive tackle James "J.T." Hamilton became the fifth true freshman to play this season Saturday, and while he had a solid debut with four tackles, he leads the team in one key statistic: nicknames. Holtz has already called him "Young Chop" as a nod to his resemblance to senior DT Cory "Pork Chop" Grissom, but the freshman from Orlando also gets called "Sugar Bear" and "T-Bone." ... Sophomore walk-on linebacker Ruben Garcia (Durant) saw playing time on defense Saturday, getting a tackle and earning playing time ahead of at least five scholarship linebackers. ... USF men's soccer fell from No. 2 to No. 11 in the NSCAA Coaches' Poll after a 1-0 loss to South Carolina, but the Bulls can climb back up with a win this weekend at No. 9 Akron. ... Former USF tight end Isaac Virgin, who barely played in three seasons with the Bulls, is now at I-AA Bethune-Cookman, where he could make his Wildcats debut this week at Miami.