The Handcuffs Are Off

The Pitt football team's offense has been so conservative the past few weeks, U.S. Senator Trent Lott has become a strong supporter.

However, the Panthers finally appear to be ready to take the shackles off freshman quarterback Pat Bostick this week. Now, don't expect to see Bostick and fellow frosh LeSean McCoy lighting it up in the run-and-shoot, but there might be a little bit more imagination.

"I sure hope so,'' Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "I know it's not much fun for a quarterback when most of second-and-medium and second-and-long and third downs we were handing the ball off. But there was a reason that we did it. It just didn't work.

"We're certainly not going to let him cut him loose and air it out on every down, but there's going to be a better a balance, hopefully, in the play-calling. So, I've got to do a better job of that, and as long as he's making good decisions and getting completions, we'll try to be a little more balanced.''

Cavanaugh also noted that last week's game plan put Bostick in a tough position once again.

"We went in, obviously, trying to keep the game close,'' Cavanaugh said, "and being very conservative and running the ball as much as we could to keep it a tight game to give us a chance to win at the end. Obviously, that didn't transpire. We got behind early, and he had to throw a bunch in the second half. We stuck with it as long as we thought we could.

"So, that being said, I think Pat has done some things and has impressed some people with his knowledge of the offense and some of his decision-making. And I just think as each week goes by, with another opportunity to be on the field and taking snaps, he's going to continue to get better.''

It would be nice to talk to Bostick about his work ethic, or anything for that matter, but he has been off-limits to the media since he returned from a brief hiatus during training camp. Cavanaugh, however, noted that Bostick has been an excellent student of the game since he arrived at Pitt.

"Pat gets it,'' Cavanaugh said. "He knows what he's looking at, and I credit his high school coach, Mike Melnyk, for teaching him football. He doesn't just come in and put his feet up to quickly go through a game. He analyzes it. He looks at statistics and backs it up by going back through the tape to see if the tendencies hold true. If something stands out, he'll find it on the tape and take a good look at it. He also communicates and visualizes very well.

"One of the characteristics that I love in a quarterback is a guy that can visualize while you're talking to him so you don't have to stop and draw everything up. So, we can communicate well enough together where we don't have to waste a lot of time having to draw things on the board. And that's a strength of his right now.''

Cavanaugh apparently has developed a strong relationship and rapport with Bostick in just a short period of time, and he has quickly put what he has learned in practice onto the field.

"He's very bright about the game of football when he's on the field,'' Cavanaugh added. "It's usually something you have to spend a whole year teaching somebody, how to analyze tape, how to visualize schemes and talk about what we're doing versus what they're doing and have a clear picture in your head of what it means. He's done a nice job with that.

"It translates very quickly for Pat on the field. Some guys are great in the classroom, but when the ball's snapped they can't put it all together. But I credit his high school coach for getting Pat ready for that, and sometimes it can take more than a year for guys to learn that. But Pat's already there.''

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt believed that Bostick would show tremendous improvement in the Navy game just because it's his second start and what he's seen from him in practice the past few days. It's also a home game, so Bostick and the offense won't have to deal with crowd noise.

"That will definitely help him,'' Wannstedt said, "and ... we've got a couple extra days to prepare. So, the extra practice will help, too.''

Cavanaugh noted that he was nervous, at first, because he had two freshmen starting in the backfield. But now he's excited about it.

"I trust both of them, and I think they both work real hard with what they're trying to get done,'' Cavanaugh said. "They have great effort in the classroom and great effort on the field, and that's encouraging for guys that our freshman. So, yes, I'm starting to get excited about it.

"I know we're going to take our lumps at some points, but we've got some guys who are leading by example right now. They're probably unwilling to be too vocal as freshmen, but they're setting good examples both in the classroom and on the field.''

Pitt (2-3) faces Navy (3-2) Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Heinz Field.

Panther More Top Stories