TAMPA — Nearly three years ago, they were the favorite targets of record-setting QB Quentin Williams, Florida’s Mr. Football.
Nearly three years ago, they helped Jefferson High School to a Class 3A state football championship.
Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium, they met again — this time on opposite sides. That didn’t stop University of South Florida junior WR Andre Davis from exchanging warm greetings with Cincinnati Bearcats sophomore WR Chris Moore during the American Athletic Conference opener.
“I always love seeing guys I played with in high-school ball,’’ Davis said. “It’s part of my competitive nature. I want to step it up even more.’’
On Saturday, Davis moved into ninth on the Bulls’ all-time receptions list and caught a pass in his 23rd consecutive game, setting a USF record.
Moore, who entered Saturday night’s game with 11 receptions for 158 yards and one touchdown, has enjoyed an enhanced role with the Bearcats.
“The thing I like about Chris is, he’s a student of the game,’’ Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said before the game. “He watches a lot of film on his own, and that has made him a better football player. He has gotten much better and I like his progress.’’
About two hours before kickoff, the Bearcats gathered in a midfield circle, pausing to remember and say a prayer for freshman OL Ben Flick and his best friend, Sean VanDyne, who were killed in a Sept. 21 car accident. It also injured freshman WRs Mark Barr and Javon Harrison. Flick, 19, was pronounced dead at the scene. Barr remains in critical condition.
“It’s hard to imagine that life goes by so quick, that things change so quickly,’’ Tuberville said before the game. “I’ve been around tragedies on college football teams, but this one has been different. This one was multiple. We’ve still got one (Barr) that’s in serious condition, very serious, a young man who is struggling to make it.
“I think our players have done a good job considering what they’ve gone through. But they’re still 18, 19 years old and most of them are facing a death for the first time. There’s no right or wrong way to approach this. This is life — life at its worst, I would call it.’’
Just before kickoff, fans observed a moment of silence for Flick.
Big night For JuJu
Bulls senior DE Julius “JuJu’’ Forte figured heavily into USF’s successful first half.
On the 40-yard field goal attempt by Cincinnati’s Tony Milano, Forte got a big push at the line, allowing Mike McFarland to get the block. Freshman Nate Godwin scooped it up and raced 75 yards for a touchdown.
In the second quarter, Forte forced a fumble by Moore on a failed screen attempt that lost 10 yards. It was picked up by MLB DeDe Lattimore, who raced 10 yards for the score.
Forte’s efforts might have gotten second billing, but they were appreciated on the USF sideline, where he was mobbed by well-wishers.
“Our main emphasis is turnovers, no matter how we get those,’’ Forte said before the game. “Of course, we would like six points off every turnover. We just want to get the ball back in our offense’s hands. We still trust our offense. We love our offense. We know just like our defense, it’s a process. So we know they’re going to start putting up points for us.’’
Marvin Kloss’ 52-yard field goal in the second quarter was the third-longest in USF history, behind a 63-yarder by Bill Gramatica (Austin Peay, 2000) and a 56-yarder by Delbert Alvarado (Syracuse, 2006). … Mattias Ciabatti, who had a 2-yard shank on Sept. 28 against Miami, unloaded a 68-yard punt in the second quarter (bouncing into the end zone). It was the third-longest in USF history behind a 72-yarder from Devin Sanderson (Arkansas, 2002) and a 70-yarder from Justin Brockhaus-Kann (Cincinnati, 2012). … It was the third different conference for a USF-Cincinnati game — the AAC, Big East and Conference USA — and the same scenario will exist when USF faces Louisville on Oct. 26. … In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, USF players wore pink socks, wrist bands and gloves. … Tuberville is the fourth Cincinnati head coach to face USF in the last eight meetings, joining Mark Dantonio (now at Michigan State), Brian Kelly (Notre Dame) and Butch Jones (Tennessee). … The Bulls travel to Connecticut (0-4) next Saturday at noon. USF has dropped its last four games at UConn, which had an open date after the firing of coach Paul Pasqualoni.