Big East : RB McCoy the catalyst for No. 24 Pittsburgh’s offense
Dave Wannstedt knows that for his Pittsburgh team to win, LeSean McCoy needs to get the ball.
The sophomore running back has been the key to the Panthers’ offense in its current four-game winning streak. McCoy ranks second in the Big East with 533 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, leading No. 24 Pittsburgh to a 4-1 start (2-0 Big East).
Wannstedt, the Panthers’ head coach, has called plays for McCoy as much as possible, depending on which formations opposing defenses line up. The last two times out against South Florida and Syracuse, McCoy had a season-high 28 carries in each game.
As Big East play continues for first-place Pittsburgh, Wannstedt plans to get McCoy the ball even more.
‘It’s hard for a running back to put up big numbers when they don’t carry the ball enough,’ Wannstedt said during a teleconference on Monday. ‘We need to give him even more opportunities. He has a lot of talent and natural ability that will help him grow even more.’
McCoy’s best overall effort so far this season came last Thursday at South Florida. Pittsburgh upset the then-No. 10 Bulls, 26-21. McCoy led the offense with 142 yards for two touchdowns – earning him Big East offensive player of the week honors.
Upsetting undefeated USF moved the Panthers to the top of the conference standings and back into the Top 25. McCoy has been the Panthers’ constant on offense throughout the season. Against Buffalo on Sept. 6, McCoy scored a season-high three touchdowns and rushed for 93 yards in Pittsburgh’s 27-16 win.
In 2007, McCoy did not start but he still ranked 21st in the NCAA for average rushing yards per game with 110.67 yards. He broke Pittsburgh’s freshman scoring (90 points) and touchdown (14) records.
After posting record-breaking statistics in his freshman campaign, Wannstedt moved McCoy into the starting lineup for the 2008 season.
‘This is his first season as a starter and he’s had to deal with all the media hype,’ Wannstedt said. ‘He got through the first half of the season really well. Hopefully he’s got his feet on the ground and behaves just like the rest of our team.’
Wannstedt’s offense is a stronger rushing team than a passing one, so McCoy fits in perfectly with Pittsburgh’s game plan.
‘In order to use all your weapons, you need to be able to run the ball effectively,’ Wannstedt said. ‘We are not as proficient in our passing game at this present time, but that will come too. In order for us to be affective we need some play-action passes and for that to happen you need to run the ball.’
Despite posting the highest rushing statistics of any of the Panthers’ players, McCoy still has some learning to do in order to make Pittsburgh’s running game more proficient.
‘Physically the talent is there but once he mentally starts to learn to read defensives and get the big picture of what we’re doing on offense he will become more and more affective,’ Wannstedt said.
Quarterbacks going down
The injury bug has struck several quarterbacks in the Big East. Connecticut, Cincinnati and Louisville have all suffered injuries under center recently.
Connecticut (4-1) and Cincinnati (4-1) were both forced to play a backup quarterback last weekend. Meanwhile, Louisville (2-2) had a bye week giving starting quarterback Hunter Cantwell a chance to recover a sprained ankle.
Cantwell and Connecticut’s Tyler Lorenzen both went down in the Louisville-UConn matchup Sept. 26. Lorenzen who broke his right foot in the second quarter, had surgery the following day and will miss the next six to eight weeks.
Cantwell sprained his ankle in the second half, but returned to practice on Wednesday. Louisville head coach Steve Kragthorpe said during a teleconference Cantwell will play Friday against Memphis.
The Huskies started sophomore Zach Frazer to replace Lorenzen in its game against North Carolina on Saturday. Frazer completed 22-of-44 passes for 210 yards with three interceptions. The Tar Heels handed the Huskies their first loss, 38-12.
Tony Pike, Cincinnati’s second-string quarterback, broke his arm against Akron, Sept. 27. The Bearcats started Chazz Anderson, a redshirt freshman in his place. Anderson threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third in Cincinnati’s road win at Marshall Saturday.
West Virginia’s QBs share the spotlight
Pat White and Jarrett Brown shared the spotlight Saturday when West Virginia (3-2) defeated Rutgers, 24-17, in its conference opener.
White, a senior, completed 12-of-17 passes for 137 yards and threw for two touchdowns. Brown, a junior, rushed for 44 yards and one touchdown.
‘Jarrett has been great,’ WVU head coach Bill Stewart said during a teleconference. ‘When you think about what we ask him to do: stand on the sidelines, be a leader. He’s really excited now for the package we’ve put together for him.’
White has been the Mountaineers’ primary quarterback so far this season, completing 75-of-103 passes for 590 yards with only one interception. But since introducing Brown more into the offense, West Virginia has won its last two games.
‘He’s a long-legged guy,’ Stewart said. ‘Once he gets going, he goes. His speed – there’s no stopping him.’
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