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Pitt football notebook: Chryst takes blame for special-teams lapses

| Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

• Pitt doesn't have a coach whose sole responsibility is special teams, but coach Paul Chryst said he will accept the blame for North Carolina's two touchdowns on punt returns. “We have an individual coach in charge of each phase and, ultimately, I'm responsible for them all,” he said. “If (people) want to blame someone, they can blame me.” Pitt allowed North Carolina's Ryan Switzer to average 42 yards on three returns, including the two decisive scores.

• Head injuries to former Clairton teammates Trenton Coles and Titus Howard robbed Pitt of some depth in the secondary and special teams. Chryst didn't blame their absence for the coverage problems, but he likes the progress the players had been making. “I don't know if Trenton, specifically, would have made a difference, but I sure like our units when he's on them,” he said. “To say it doesn't hurt would say we don't want those guys on the field. Titus has given us a lot of good snaps. I really do think (Coles) was hitting strides.” Coles' absence gave Terrish Webb, another Clairton graduate, a chance to play in the nickel defense. “I thought we had a good plan,” Chryst said. “I don't think it handicapped us. Just a little different approach to it.” Chryst added he doesn't believe the injuries to Coles and Howard are “long-term.”

• Pitt's inconsistent performances are not the result of a lack of effort, the coach said. “It's not like guys are riding waves of being into it and out of it,” he said. “Guys are taking their turns of making a mistake that we can't rally past.”

• Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is in a race with Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley for the ACC sack and tackles for loss titles. They are tied with 10 sacks each, but Donald leads in TFLs, 22-16. Donald also is No. 1 in the nation in TFLs (2.3 per game) and is college football's active career leader in sacks (28.5).

— Jerry DiPaola

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