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What you might have missed from USF-Towson

USF running back Darius Tice (13) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Towson Tigers defense in the first quarter at Raymond James in Tampa on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016.
USF running back Darius Tice (13) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Towson Tigers defense in the first quarter at Raymond James in Tampa on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016.
Published Sep. 4, 2016

TAMPA

From Darius Tice's 43-yard touchdown catch and run to WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling's dazzling debut, there were plenty of bright spots in USF's season opener against Division I-AA Towson on Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium. Here are five things you might have missed:

Dedicated to mom days after her death

Danny Thomas honored his mother, who died Wednesday, with a white towel draped over his left leg, inscribed, in black marker, with the message: "R.I.P Momma." Despite his loss, Thomas, a sophomore middle linebacker, still wanted to play and finished with two tackles.

"He wants to be here with his team, he wants to play and he wants to go out and continue to make his mom proud of him," Bulls coach Willie Taggart said Thursday. "From Day 1, whenever Danny and I have conversations and whenever we talk, whether it's good or bad, mom always comes up in it. So you know how important she was to him, and he always talks about doing it for her."

Tice bides his time

Darius Tice's touchdown catch (above) to get USF on the board in the first quarter was the first of his career. The senior running back, who had four rushing scores last season during the Bulls' run to their first bowl appearance since 2010, gave the offense its first points in style.

Tice took a shovel pass from QB Quinton Flowers and eluded multiple Towson defenders on his way to a 43-yard touchdown. For Tice, who entered with only 14 career receptions for 82 receiving yards, the catch was a career long.

Harris haunts Tigers with big plays

Senior LB Nigel Harris made his presence felt early for USF's defense. Harris, a former Hillsborough High standout, dealt a thunderous blow on a sack of Towson QB Morgan Mahalak in the first quarter. He followed up in the second quarter, stopping RB Darius Victor in the backfield for a loss on a drive that ended with an unsuccessful fourth-down conversion attempt.

Then, with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Harris picked off Mahalak and returned it 49 yards to the Towson 5-yard line. One play later, QB Quinton Flowers scored to put the Bulls ahead 28-10.

Harris was suspended two games last season, including the opener against Florida A&M, for violating team rules.

"I faced some big adversity last season, but I saw it as a lesson," Harris said during preseason practice.

"I just (kept praying) … and other people were around me. The staff helped me out. They sent me to the right people to get things situated."

Cherry surprise

Coach Willie Taggart left everyone with a cliffhanger on Tuesday, hinting that sophomore LB Cecil Cherry would see his first minutes of playing time — and maybe more. "You're going to see a couple different things out of Cecil," Taggart said. "I'm not gonna give it to you yet." On Saturday night, Taggart showed one of those different ways by inserting the Texas transfer on offense at fullback during QB Quinton Flowers' 5-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter. Cherry returned to the field at his natural position in the second half.

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Not what we meant by 'streak' route

A streaker momentarily disrupted things as the teams headed into their respective tunnels at halftime. According to Tampa Police, the unidentified male stripped off his clothes and leaped onto the field from the corner of USF's student section in the north end zone wearing nothing but socks. But after hustling down the Bulls sideline toward the 15-yard line, he was quickly apprehended before reaching his intended destination. He was handed a towel to cover himself and taken into custody.