TAMPA — To appreciate what Andre Davis did Saturday by 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 High graduate, who turned 19 on the day of USF's 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."
Saturday, Davis doing his thing meant resetting USF's single-game receiving records for catches (12) and yards (191), stepping up after junior Sterling Griffin was lost to 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.
Davis' two 50-yard touchdowns Saturday showed his range of skills — first a 52-yard score on a short route where he spun past the initial defender then outran the defense down the sideline, then the winning 56-yarder with 38 seconds left, where he beat a defensive back down the sideline, fought off pass interference 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 games, Davis had just four catches for 45 yards, but as injuries pressed him into a larger role, he caught 18 for 228 in last year's 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 TD with 1:28 left for a 34-30 lead, only to see the Bearcats regain the lead 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 the national spotlight Thursday night with Rutgers in town and ESPN's audience tuning in, Davis 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 "Bowl Bash," where representatives from all BCS bowl games as well as all bowls with Big East ties will attend to get a firsthand look at the Bulls. USF hopes 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: DT James "J.T." Hamilton became the fifth true freshman to play this season, and while he had a solid debut with four tackles, he leads the team in one statistic: nicknames. Coach Skip 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 LB Ruben Garcia (Durant) got in on defense, getting a tackle and earning playing time ahead of at least five scholarship linebackers. … The men's soccer team 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 Sunday at No. 9 Akron. … Former USF TE Isaac Virgin, who barely played in three seasons with the Bulls, is now at Division I-AA Bethune-Cookman, where he could debut this week when the Wildcats play at Miami.