Bostick Ready To Take Next Step

After losing three straight games, including two convincing defeats, the Pitt football team is searching for answers, and a quick glance at the depth chart reveals that few changes can be made there.

Pittsburgh (2-3) has a week to prepare for its game against Navy Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. at Heinz Field with basically the same players involved on offense and defense. The only changes that can be made involve playing time and game plans, and neither appear to be on the agenda for the Panthers coaches.

Always the optimist, Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt found a positive aspect to the blowout loss at Virginia Saturday night, and that was with freshman quarterback Pat Bostick. His first college start was against the Cavaliers.

"I was very encouraged by the other night for a couple reasons,'' Wannstedt said. "No. 1, when he was sacked the one time, there was only one time where he did not know, I mean, they brought a lot of pressure. In fact, in the fourth quarter, three out of every four times they ran a defense, they were firing a linebacker or safety.

"So, he did a great job of reading the coverage and getting the ball out of his hand quick. He didn't stand back there and hold it or panic. And there were two plays where the receiver actually should have read the blitz and didn't, and we would have had a nice little quick reception. The one interception, it was a mental part by a wide receiver. It wasn't Pat.

"The wide receiver was actually blocking,'' Wannstedt added. "He thought it was a screen. So, there was a miscommunication between the two of them. Pat was trying to throw the ball to him, and the ball got intercepted. But Pat was correct on that thing. I will say this, where the inexperience showed up was in the little intangible things such as the snap count.''

Wannstedt believed that the Virginia crowd noise was much louder than the Panthers faced at Michigan State two weeks earlier, and that forced the offense to use a silent count. There apparently was some confusion between center Chris Vangas and Bostick, much the same way that there was between Vangas and Kevan Smith at MSU. And this caused several pre-snap penalties for false starts by the offense.

"But that's going to happen on the road and when you're playing in front of a crowd like that,'' Wannstedt said. "You'd like for it not to happen, but those things do happen. Overall, making decisions, handling himself and not panicking in that type of environment, I thought Pat did a very good job.

"And he was very accurate with most of his throws. So, I'm encouraged, and he'll continue to get better. I really believe that, week after week. And we've got a couple extra days to get Navy, so I think he'll come out this week and be much improved in the next game.''

Bostick certainly appears to be eager to improve. Wannstedt said the young quarterback came to the practice facility around 7:30 Monday morning with a football in his hand, ready to work out a while. But since the Panthers didn't have a practice scheduled, Wannstedt had to tell him to go to class, get some rest, some treatment or do something else. But stay away for a day.

Wannstedt believed this display showed that the team has not given up on the season, and the Panthers looked forward to getting back on the field to correct the problems that have come up in recent weeks.

"We need practice,'' Wannstedt said, "and ... we've got to get a lot better running the football, and we've got to go out there and continue to work on our skills in that area. The most glaring area is having three quarterbacks play in five games, and that's not a good thing at any level, particularly when the kids that are coming in are freshmen.

"So, the more time that we can get working with our quarterbacks and our receivers and throwing the ball and trying to get into some type of sync there, it's going to help us. ... We'll be very demanding and expect to get better, and that's the message to our football team. We need to improve in the areas this week that we fell short in last week.''

Wannstedt was also asked about junior quarterback Bill Stull's status, but he could provide no update. Stull's rehabilitation on his right thumb is in the infancy stages, and it is unlikely that he could return anytime soon.

"I have no idea on Billy,'' Wannstedt said. "So, we're just taking it one week at a time with him.''

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