Pitt Versus Navy Defense

Pitt's offensive success against Navy this week just might be predicated on how quickly the Panthers defense can get off the field.

Pittsburgh (2-3) faces the Midshipmen (3-2), who run a triple-option, ball-control offense, Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Heinz Field. So, it will be incumbent on the Panthers' offense to be precise on each possession, i.e. no pre-snap penalties or general screw-ups, to take advantage during each series.

"There's certainly some penalties that were credited to Pat (Bostick), when his cadence was off a little bit, but twice we jumped when we were going on the first sounds,'' Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "I'm not sure what they heard, because they moved. Then, we said we were going on a long count, and the first word out of his mouth, somebody moved.

"So, it's been a combination of things: Pat, a lack of focus and not breaking the huddle sure of what the snap count is, and that's our fault as coaches. We've got to put an end to (the penalties). If a guy's a repeat offender, he's got to come off the field. ... It's frustrating calling plays when you're not scoring enough points, and we're not scoring enough points.

"And that's a combination of not consistently blocking people,'' Cavanaugh added, "not consistently throwing the ball right, not consistently getting open on routes and not consistently finding the holes when we're carrying the ball. So, I'm not going to put it on one group, because it's the entire offense. (And) we're not performing anywhere near where we need to be right now.''

Cavanaugh confirmed that Pitt always starts a game with 15 plays that they'd like to run under normal circumstances. However, due to penalties, turnovers and field-position changes, that game plan has altered. But sophomore tight end Nate Byham believed things would turn around soon.

"I just need to go out there and keep working hard, like I have been, and not really change anything,'' Byham said. "Practice-wise, our tempo has been great, and we've been working hard for the last two weeks in practice.

"But it just hasn't come together for us in the games. Still, I'll just keep doing what I've been doing, and hopefully we'll all come together. There's been signs of it. Everybody's been working hard, it's going to pay off soon, I think.''

Byham also believed that his improved blocking would be beneficial this week as well, so freshman tailback LeSean McCoy can have a big game. McCoy looked forward to more running room.

"We just have to try to be consistent on offense, work on the little things, and try to limit our mistakes week after week,'' McCoy said. "If we can do that, we'll be fine. That's the one area that we need to keep working on. I just think the focus is different for the games. In practice, with referees here, we do all the right things and are prepared for the games.

"But during the games, I just think we have to bring our focus from practice to them. You should be at both focused, but we have to be more focused during the games. The games, we just be even more focused, but this is just a hump that we need to get over. I think if we can get this win under our belt, a lot more of them might come easier.''

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt believed that Navy's offense has only punted 10 times in five games, so the opposition has gotten just 10 possessions against its defense. That unit is led by outside linebacker Matt Wimsatt with 17 solo tackles and 36 stops overall. inside linebacker Irv Spencer has 30 tackles and four behind the lines, while defensive end Michael Walsh has 25 stops and 4.5 tackles behind the line. Cornerback Ketric Buffin is among the top tacklers, but he also has four interceptions in five games.

"Their defense is pretty good,'' Cavanaugh said. "They're a 3-4 base, with a lot of different looks in that. They can put a guy down and turn it into a four-man front. They're not real multiple in coverages, but like most teams that play a 3-4 they have an assortment of pressures that we have to be ready for. They're not doing anything that we haven't seen.

"That includes looks from our own defense in the summer, so we've had some good work on it. The extra work will help. We had to categorize their multiple alignments, but I think we've got a good grip on that. And they play sound. They have a good team, and they play to their strengths. So, we're going to need to have a good game.''

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