During an interview with the media Wednesday afternoon, Cavanaugh noted several times that play-calling was a factor in the Pittsburgh offensive problems against the Falcons.
"I'm accountable, too,'' Cavanaugh said. "Probably the worst call of the day for me came at the end of the first half when on a second down I ran a draw play. If I could have that back, I would have thrown the ball. Then, go to a third-down draw where if we didn't get it we could go for the field goal on fourth down.
"I would say, in hindsight, throwing a few more deep balls probably would have helped. We got caught a little off-guard and didn't realize until in the second half that they were pressuring a lot more than we planned, but it didn't affect us as much in the first half. Then, in the second half, to take advantage of that three-deep pressure we should have been throwing the ball downfield more.''
Cavanaugh also blamed some problems on quarterback Bill Stull's inexperience, but spread around the criticism in that area as well.
"Maybe Bill didn't get some help from his receivers or maybe sometimes he didn't get the ball where he was supposed to,'' Cavanaugh said. "And maybe I called some crummy plays, sometimes. But the bottom line is that we only scored 17 points and left a lot of yards ... for getting almost 400 (total yards), we probably left 100-150 yards on the field by turning the ball over.''
The passing game wasn't the only aspect of Cavanaugh's offense to be chastised. The running game struggled mightily in the second half, and talented tailback LeSean McCoy was hit the hardest. He finished with an un-Shady-like 71 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries, less than 3.1 yards per run. And he had an untimely fumble.
"That was more on my part,'' McCoy said about his fumble. "I kind of got so frustrated early in the game. I really wasn't used to getting bottled up like that. I was trying to make some plays, and ... I tried to break a tackle there. And sometimes, when you try to do that extra stuff, I got a little frustrated, and that caused a fumble. (But) it has to start with me.
"I'm supposed to be the guy to give the team a little spark to spark the offense and to be a play-maker, and I came up short. I didn't produce. So, it starts with me. I'm very confident in my teammates, especially on offense, but we have to execute. ... Everything we practiced was what we saw, so we just needed to execute and make some plays.''
Pitt's longest play from scrimmage against Bowling Green was a 27-yard LaRod Stephens-Howling run. The longest pass completion was 18 yards to tight end Dorin Dickerson. The Panthers took a few shots downfield, but not many before the fourth quarter when they trailed and were desperate.
Cavanaugh believed that the lack of big plays probably were a combination of play-calling and execution.
"I'm not going to stand here and say that there were enough opportunities for big plays,'' Cavanaugh said. "We had some, but we have guys who are play-makers and those big plays just didn't happen.
"Anything from throwing the deep ball and somebody coming down with it or throwing a deep ball and keeping it inbounds or making the right reads ... so, there were a lot of things that could have led to big plays.
"I understand some people's vision of a big play is for the ball to be thrown 40 yards downfield,'' Cavanaugh added, "but big plays come in other ways. So, we'll give our guys a few more opportunities this week and see if they can execute.''
Cavanaugh also noted that better execution and good play-calling leads to higher scoring as well.
"We were lacking in both the other day,'' Cavanaugh said. "I've got to give our guys more opportunities to make big plays, and when the opportunity is there we've got to execute. When you lose a game like that (where) I thought we did some good things in the first half and were awful in the second half, there's got to be some soul-searching and everybody is going to be held accountable.
"And we've done that around here from Day 1. I've never stood here and pointed a finger at the players, and I don't think they've pointed fingers at the play-calling. But we win and lose as a team, and if we're not executing and not scoring enough points then we as a group have to get better. And that's our focus this week.''
McCoy addressed that as well.
"We started up 14-0, and ... we kind let it slip away,'' McCoy said. "I can't fault coach Cav about everything. He made some mistakes, but we also made some mistakes. It's the whole offense, and it starts with me. I'm supposed to be that productive back, but I fumbled the ball, missed some reads and let the defense get to me. So, it starts with me. ... I was supposed to be the big play-maker.
"And I wasn't productive. I was a little impatient and got out of our game plan and tried to do my own thing. Just trying to create something extra, but that's something you need to learn, to have faith in my guys. So, I'll make sure this week to focus more on that and try not to do my own thing out there.''
Some believe that using freshman wideout Jonathan Baldwin more would help take the pressure off McCoy and the running game, since he's 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, has sprinter's speed and a 40-inch vertical jump. He was in for just three plays against Bowling Green.
"Jonathan has a lot of talent, and we'll put him on the field when we think he's ready to get more playing time,'' Cavanaugh said. "At the same time, when you put him out there three times and throw him the deep ball, I don't know if the execution is always going to be there. We've got to get him other things to do, and he's getting there.''
So is Pitt's offense, only the progress is a lot slower than many would like.
Cavanaugh, McCoy Critique Pitt Offense
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