Cavanaugh Searches For Offensive Balance

Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said that he would like to see freshman tailback LeSean McCoy get 25-30 carries per game, but Panthers head coach Dave Wannstedt knows that the team has to be balanced on offense to be successful.

"We're going to have to throw the ball and mix it up,'' Wannstedt said. "As much as everybody would like to think that we can give the ball to one guy 50 consecutive times, you can't. You've got to give the other teams a little bit of credit, and we're just not dominant enough up from to be able to do that.''

Wannstedt also pointed out that quarterback Tyler Palko hit seven different receivers during an opening touchdown drive against Virginia at Heinz Field, and that would be the key to success this year as well. Cavanaugh believed it would help the passing game to run the ball with LeSean McCoy and LaRod Stephens-Howling, who are both "special backs,'' he said.

"I'm convinced that both of those guys can do a lot of the same things,'' Cavanaugh said. "LeSean's had a little bit more productivity this season, but I've got just as much confidence in LaRod. So, between them and Darrell Strong, Oderick Turner, Marcel Pestano, Nate Byham, we've got some people to get the ball to that we're confident can make some things happen.

"We just haven't been doing a good enough job at the quarterback position, and that needs to pick up. ... We hoped that Kevan Smith would've played better, but obviously the first half last week was not what we were looking for. There were some throws, we turned the ball over a couple times and got sloppy with it, so we made a change and got Pat a lot of good reps.''

Both Cavanaugh and Wannstedt believed that Pat Bostick would perform well in his first college start this week, as long as he isn't needed "to do too much.'' Wannstedt attributed his comments to his decision to work with the first team exclusively this week, which also gives the team veterans a chance to rally around him a little bit and the best chance to be successful.

"I know that he's been accurate and has a good understanding of what we've been doing,'' Wannstedt said, "but ... the offense is not going to be carried by the quarterback. We've got some other people that we need to get the ball in their hands, and I think he understands that. And we'll do everything we can with the playcalling to try to get the ball to those people.''

Cavanaugh also noted that Pitt's game plan was changed drastically after UConn got ahead due to turnovers and penalties. But don't expect the Panthers to go to the Wildcat extensively this week, either. Wannstedt said that it was a difficult task to know when to use it and when to go with the regular offense.

"The Wildcat is a change of pace offense,'' Wannstedt said, "but ... when you're throwing interceptions for touchdowns on screens, you can't get much more more conservative than that, unless you just start quick-hitting it every time on third down.

"So, we're trying to make some first downs, but I think the key (for Bostick) is to keep us in manageable third downs. We haven't been sacked or anything like that, but it's just been inexperience and poor decision-making.''

While Cavanaugh had faith in Bostick, there was some concern with his first start coming in a tough road game.

"My opinion is that we haven't been successful or very productive offensively because our quarterback play has been poor, and that's got to be changed,'' Cavanaugh said. "We've got to game plan the right way, and we can't put the quarterback in a position where he feels like he has to win the game for us.

"He has to understand ball control, protecting the ball and getting it to the guys who will make plays for him. ... Believe it or not, as a coordinator, you always try to put a game plan together that you think is the best to win that week. But I really don't care what we're doing, as long as we win.''

There were some good things that Bostick did against UConn.

"I was a little bit nervous with him going into the game,'' Cavanaugh said. "I wasn't sure how much he was ready to play. Obviously, the situation wasn't ideal. ... We were down, and we needed some points. And he threw 41 times, which for us right now is a formula for disaster.

"But what I liked about it was that he did look to get more comfortable the more he was back there throwing. He got knocked down a couple times and had a couple turnovers, but he hung in there and kept competing.''

Note: Wannstedt said that sophomore RT Jason Pinkston was going to practice Tuesday and attempt to get ready for the Virginia game. His status will be updated more later in the week.

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