|He may not catch Dorsett, but McCoy giving Pitt a fresh start|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 02 November 2007 00:26|
Still in full gear, McCoy trudged wearily toward the team bus and planned to fly back home to Pittsburgh that way. It wasn't until coach Dave Wannstedt intercepted him and told him to take off his No. 25 that McCoy grudgingly changed out of his sweaty, dirty uniform.
To Wannstedt, the sight of McCoy so upset that he didn't care what he was wearing illustrates perfectly what a competitor and, yes, a team leader, the 19-year-old McCoy is becoming only two months into his college career.
``He wanted to fly home with his equipment on,'' said Wannstedt, who always refers to McCoy by his nickname of Shady. ``I said, 'No, you can't do that. You have to change before you get on the plane.' His emotions were so strong that he didn't want to be in the locker room.''
McCoy's fumble sealed Pitt's 24-17 loss, but the play wasn't illustrative of an unexpectedly good season that may end with McCoy ranking as the most productive Panthers freshman running back since Tony Dorsett in 1973.
McCoy, whose football future was in doubt only two years ago because of serious knee and ankle injuries, needs 75 yards Saturday against Syracuse (2-6, 1-2 Big East) to join Dorsett and Curvin Richards as the only Pitt freshmen to gain 1,000 yards.
Like Dorsett, whose 1,686 yards in 1973 may be out of reach, McCoy isn't excelling as a redshirt freshman, either. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound McCoy spent last season at a prep school while recovering from his high school senior season injuries but this is his first college season.
Even if there is nothing statistically to suggest it is.
``It's pretty nice, going over 1,000 yards,'' said McCoy, who ran for 120 yards and a touchdown before fumbling at Louisville. ``The big guys (linemen) are reminding me about it more than I think about it. My first year, I never expected this much so far and so fast.''
Fast being the operative word. McCoy already has five 100-yard games, including his last three games, and he needs three touchdown runs to tie Dorsett's freshman record of 13 in a season, counting a bowl game.
Until this season, Dorsett and Richards (1,228 yards in 1988) were the only Pitt freshmen to gain more than 645 yards. McCoy would be only the ninth Pitt running back to surpass 1,000 and the first since Kevan Barlow (1,167) in 2000.
``It's a stepping stone for our offense. It says we've got a good back,'' offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. ``Our line's blocking better and we're trying to establish a better running game than we've had. And, yes, it is special for him.''
McCoy, from Bishop McDevitt High in Harrisburg, was supposed to back up returning starter LaRod Stephens-Howling this season. Wannstedt predicted when training camp opened that Stephens-Howling would be a 1,000-yard back if he stayed healthy.
Once McCoy got onto the field - he didn't start until the third game - Stephens-Howling hasn't been able to work his way back into the lineup. In his last three games, McCoy ran for 422 yards and four touchdowns against Navy, Cincinnati and Louisville.
Wannstedt should know what kind of running back he has in McCoy, an elusive runner who finds the open field faster than any Pitt back since Curtis Martin. As a Pitt senior tackle in 1973, Wannstedt opened many holes as a blocker for Dorsett.
McCoy constantly asks Wannstedt about Dorsett, Emmitt Smith and Ricky Williams, all of whom were coached by or were teammates with Wannstedt.
``I made a comment to him about Emmitt Smith,'' Wannstedt said. ``You don't know how many games that we went into at halftime and he was averaging two yards a carry and he ended up with four and a half or five.''
McCoy, whose favorite back was Barry Sanders, would like nothing better than to have a few LeSean McCoy stories for Wannstedt to spin.
Pitt is 3-5 overall and 1-2 in the Big East, but Wannstedt is seeing considerable progress from a team that has a freshman quarterback (Pat Bostick) and running back and a remarkable 32 freshmen or sophomores on its two-deep chart.
``We're making strides from a mental toughness standpoint,'' Wannstedt said. ``It's not as fast as anyone would like, but we're dealing with a great group of kids. The attitude for where our record is, 3-5 - you wouldn't know it if you watched these kids practice.''