Greg Cross can be a dual-threat for Pitt.
As Pitt's bye week has come and gone, the Panthers coaches used some time for self-evaluation, and after some thought offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh did not believe his play-calling was any better during the second game against Buffalo.
Cavanaugh was soundly ridiculed for his play-calling during the Pittsburgh loss to Bowling Green in the opener, but things clearly picked up for the Panthers in the second-game win against the Bulls. Cavanaugh accepted blame for the first one and deflected praise for the second game.
"We executed better,'' Cavanaugh said. "I don't think there's any question about that. I think we had a nice mix of run and pass. ... We ended the game where we were more balanced on first down and throwing more on second. The first two series, we probably did a little more passing than the first week, but we were able to take advantage of some things better against Buffalo.
"Everybody wants (to execute perfectly), but when you turn the ball over, don't protect very well, miss guys that are open and call crummy plays, you'll have a game like we had in the opener. We got it cleaned up and protected the ball a lot better. I think Bill Stull was more accurate, although he missed some throws that he should've made. But, for the most part, we made improvement.''
Cavanaugh believed that Pitt will have a good game plan for Iowa Sept. 20 at noon at Heinz Field, and that should include more snaps for freshman wideout Jonathan Baldwin and the debut junior quarterback Greg Cross.
"If you noticed in the second game, we rotated our receivers a little bit more, just to keep them a little fresher, and Jon is going to be a part of that,'' Cavanaugh said. "He didn't get as many plays because of the number of series that we had. We were a little limited. When he was due to come in during the first half, it ended up being a two-minute situation, so we opted not to use him.
"(But) we will rotate him in a little more, and I think with each week he's learning more of the offense. He certainly is becoming more capable of running more things than just a go route or being in the red zone and throwing him a jump ball. So, he's getting more comfortable, and we're getting more comfortable with him.
"We also got T.J. Porter back last week, and he responded,'' Cavanaugh added. "So, (Baldwin) won't be the focus, but he's certainly putting himself in position to get himself on the field a little bit more through rotation and hopefully have more opportunities. We need to get him some balls.''
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Cross was believed to be a player who could be used to run the Wildcat formation with more of a passing option than last year. However, while his size, speed and athleticism make him a serious running threat, he has not displayed the accuracy in practice needed to make him an effective passer as well. Cavanaugh explained the reason he has yet to be used.
"To be honest with you, we didn't think we'd need (Cross) in the first two games,'' Cavanaugh said. "But, in hindsight, we probably could have used him as a little change-up. So, he's been getting some reps, and he'll continue to get more through next week, and we do have a little package that we'll introduce. So, if need be, maybe need be or not, it'll show up this week.
"Typically, you've got to make a decision in that situation. Do you put him on the field just to do it or do you need him? Either one could be correct. If we're struggling and need a change of pace, we can put him in to spark us. If things are going well, then he's a guy you can go to. But we're not at that second part just yet.
"We weren't at the point where we were so comfortable in everything that we were doing to put him in as a change-up,'' Cavanaugh added. "In hindsight, if you look back at the first game when we weren't doing things so well, maybe he would have been a good change-up. But we'll try to get him on the field.''
Don't expect Cross to get his first series if Pitt is on the goal line coming out or has just sustained a lengthy drive into the red zone and is ready to score.
"(But) I would be comfortable somewhere in the middle of the field, I wouldn't hesitate ... or as a third-down specialist where we snap the ball to him and let him do something with it,'' Cavanaugh said.
"So, we've got some ways to do that, but I don't think the situation presented itself last week. And I was too stubborn the first week to make any changes and try to do something different.''
Maybe that's why Cavanaugh was hesitant to deem his play-calling more successful than it was in the opener.