Shady's lane: Pitt may let Wildcat out of bag again
By ALAN ROBINSON
Associated Press Sports
Updated: 10:03 a.m. CT Sept 20, 2007
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt isn't promising to pull a Wildcat out of his coaching bag of tricks against Connecticut on Saturday, even if it was successful against Michigan State.
With redshirt freshman quarterback Kevan Smith struggling during much of his second college start, Wannstedt pulled him at times against the Spartans and installed freshman running back LeSean "Shady'' McCoy as his quasi quarterback.
The formation, nicknamed Wildcat, is similar to that run by Arkansas with its running back, Darren McFadden. McCoy takes a direct snap from center - a throwback to football's single-wing days - and either runs the ball or hands it off.
McCoy ran for 172 yards in his first college start against Michigan State - his second 100-yard game in as many weeks - but did not throw any passes out of the Wildcat. Pitt (2-1) moved the ball better with McCoy taking the snaps than it did with Smith under center but lost 17-13 despite McCoy's 64-yard touchdown run.
With Smith unable to throw effectively while going 9-of-18 for 85 yards and two interceptions, Wannstedt chose to use the Wildcat formation rather than replace Smith with an even more inexperienced quarterback, freshman Pat Bostick.
"We're going to do what we have to do to win a game or else I wouldn't have run it on Saturday,'' Wannstedt said. "I felt like we had to do it in order to generate some offense. We weren't having any success throwing the ball, but we have to be careful. I have to make sure we don't let this thing become a monster.''
Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and several offensive coaches visited Arkansas last spring to study its offense. They went there after Pitt's quarterbacks, including season-opening starter Bill Stull, all had difficulty during the spring game.
"I love it,'' McCoy said, "The defense doesn't know what's coming.''
With Stull out with a damaged ligament in his thumb, Wannstedt felt that the Wildcat would give the Panthers' offense a different and unexpected look and take some of the pressure off Smith to make plays.
McCoy has been Pitt's one consistent yardage producer, rushing for 363 yards and a 6.4 yards per carry average and catching five passes for 24 yards in three games. Pitt outran Michigan State 207-144 after being outrushed 335-081 in a 38-23 loss to the Spartans last season.
Still, Wannstedt said it's not certain if he will use the offense against Connecticut (3-0), which has beaten Pitt in two of the past three seasons.
"It'll be a week-to-week decision,'' Wannstedt said. "It'll be a situation each week that if we think there's something we might be able to take advantage of, we'll use it.''
Asked if the Wildcat might be expanded, Wannstedt ruled that out, saying, "We have to throw the ball'' sometime.
Whether it will be Smith or Bostick throwing it Saturday, Wannstedt still isn't saying. Smith is 26-of-44 for 305 yards and a touchdown in two-plus games since Stull was hurt against Eastern Michigan, but has thrown three interceptions.
But Bostick is more inexperienced than Smith, who redshirted a year ago. Bostick was playing high school ball last year, and he missed the opening week of Pitt's camp for undisclosed personal reasons.
"It all starts with confidence,'' Wannstedt said. "And that goes for Pat as well.''
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Watch Pitt run their Single-Wing plays with LeSean "Shady'' McCoy leading the way. The Single-Wing plays start at 2:23 on this video.