McCoy Closing In On 1,000

Tony Dorsett was the first Pitt running back to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a season as a freshman in 1973, and eight different Panthers have reached the milestone since then.

After Dorsett's four straight 1,000-yard seasons, Elliott Walker (1,025 yards in 1977), Bryan Thomas (1,132 in 1981), Charles Gladman (1,085 in 1985), Craig Heyward (1,791 in 1987), Curvin Richards (1,228 in 1988 and 1,282 in 1989), Curtis Martin (1,075 in 1983), Billy West (1,358 in 1984) and Kevan Barlow (1,167 in 2000 ran into the Pittsburgh record book as well. LeSean McCoy is about to join them.

McCoy has 925 yards rushing on 167 carries (5.5-yard average) for the Panthers (3-5 overall, 1-2 in the Big East) going into a game against Syracuse (2-6, 1-2) Saturday at noon at Heinz Field.

"It's pretty nice, to go over a thousand yards,'' McCoy said. "The big guys are reminding me about it more than I think about it, going over a thousand yards, but it'll be cool. My first year, I never expected to achieve this much so far and so fast. So, I guess to break it would be pretty cool. When you've got good guys around you, things happen that way.''

McCoy, who would join Dorsett and Richards and the only freshmen to surpass 1,000 rushing yards, also can break Dorsett's frosh scoring mark of 12 rushing touchdowns. McCoy has 10 rushing scores and one TD catch.

"If it happens, it happens,'' McCoy said about Dorsett's record. He and Pitt's former Heisman Trophy winner didn't get a chance to talk when Dorsett was an honorary captain for the Navy game Oct. 10. Martin was also honored at that game.

"I talked to Curtis Martin,'' McCoy said. "I guess it got too cold, so Dorsett went upstairs. But I can't wait to talk to him. I've always wanted to talk to him. One day, maybe Coach Wannstedt will set something up for us to sit down and chat a little bit.''

Until then, McCoy will have to make due with Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt's stories about Dorsett, NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith, former Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams or any number of other NFL stars that Wannstedt has been associated with over the years.

"He has so many, and to hear the stories on those guys is cool,'' McCoy said. "You always see Emmitt Smith as a little guy running around and breaking all the records. All the other guys he coached, Ricky Williams, so I always like to hear all the stories he tells me about them.''

While there certainly were high expectations coming into this season, few might have believed that McCoy would achieve early success after he suffered a compound ankle fracture as a senior at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, Pa in 2005. In three-plus games prior to the injury, McCoy had 859 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. He spent a year at Milford Academy in New York to recover from the injury.

McCoy displayed flashes of that during Pitt's training camp in August, but he was sharing time with sophomore Kevin Collier behind junior starter LaRod Stephens-Howling. Collier broke a wrist to end his season right before it started, and McCoy moved up the depth chart.

However, Stephens-Howling started the opening two games until an injury forced him to miss the Michigan State game. McCoy ran wild that game with 172 yards. He started that game and five times in the past six and has run for more than 100 yards in each of the past three games.

"He's a great kid, and I'll be happy for him,'' Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "But more than anything, I think it means a lot to our offense. We wanted to run the ball better this year, and we're doing a little better. To me, with a 12-game schedule, it's hard to imagine that you can't have a thousand-yard rusher every year.

"And we, obviously, needed to make improvements with the way we rushed the ball. So, I'll be happy for the offense, but ... it's a stepping stone for our offense. It says we've got a good back. Our line's blocking better, and we're trying to establish a better running game than we've had here. ... And, yes, it's special for him.''

Wannstedt wasn't concerned about McCoy running for more than 1,000 yards. He was more interested in how well he would bounce back this week after McCoy's goal-line fumble ended Pitt's chance to win at Louisville. Frosh quarterback Pat Bostick took the blame for the play, saying that he needed to do a better job getting his star tailback the ball.

McCoy disagreed when asked about the play, which he thought was a going for a certain touchdown.

"I thought I'd get it and go left, jump over to the left side of the line,'' McCoy said. "I had everything mapped out and planned out, but it didn't happen like that. The man came through, and I started cutting before I had the ball. When I got it, it was on my hip. Pat did a great job getting me the ball.

"It was my fault. I tried to cut without securing the ball first and then making the cut. I have good vision, but sometimes you see things too fast and try to make something happen. But things happen. There were some guys out there. You watch tape all the time and see what you could have done, but at this level things just happen so fast. In the blink of an eye.''

"(But) things are going to happen like that, and we're going to have adversity,'' McCoy added. "For me, I just took it so hard, so the toughest thing for me is to bounce back. I just take this team thing so seriously. So, I just have to look at it as a chance to bounce back.''

And with just 75 rushing yards against Syracuse, McCoy can do that in a big way with his first 1,000-yard season.

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