Pitt cornerback accepts blame for his struggles

Pitt's Lafayette Pitts celebrates after recovering a fumble during the second quarter against Notre Dame on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Pitt's Lafayette Pitts celebrates after recovering a fumble during the second quarter against Notre Dame on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Photo by Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, 7:03 p.m.

Tough and unafraid, Pitt cornerback Lafayette Pitts grew up that way on the streets of Duquesne.

Maybe that's why he has no inclination to hide from his mistakes or ignore personal accountability.

This season hasn't gone well for Pitts, a sophomore from Woodland Hills, but he isn't shying away from talking about it.

“A little bit down compared to last year,” he said when asked about his performance in the first 10 games.

“I have been trying to come in and get better every day. I still have two more games to prove that.”

Pitts started every game last year as a redshirt freshman and recorded a team-high nine pass breakups with an interception and fumble recovery.

The breakups have fallen this season to three with no interceptions. He's still around the ball carrier, recording 36 tackles after totaling 35 last year.

When asked, he will list his problems one by one.

“Having bad eyes from time to time on the field, not being as aggressive getting off blocks, staying on my man,” he said.

Pitt defensive coordinator Matt House said Pitts has struggled, but he has no problems treating him with patience.

“His expectations are probably higher than anybody else's,” House said. “At the end of the day, he has only played cornerback really competitively his second year. In high school, he had the ball in his hands.”

Pitts, though, was honest in discussing the root of his trouble.

“Probably just a lack of focus,” he said. “I need to pick that up and become a better practice player and give more effort.”

He admitted coaches have been tough on him.

“Yes, they see it, too,” he said. “I just have to pick that up.”

Pitts' problems hit a wall Saturday, when coach Paul Chryst kept him off the defense for the first quarter of the North Carolina game.

He was replaced in the starting lineup by Jahmahl Pardner, who had played in only four games this season.

Chryst, who allowed Pitts to return the game's opening kickoff, gave no explanation, saying only, “Jahmahl started.”

Pitts called the situation a “coach's decision.”

“If he wanted me out there on the first play, I'd be out there,” he said. “But I'm sitting and waiting for him to call my name.”

Pitts returned to the defense in the second quarter, chasing and catching North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron after a 58-yard pass play.

But Pitts also was in the vicinity later in the drive when quarterback Marquise Williams scored easily on a 10-yard run.

House pointed out Pitts had at least one big hit in the game. “He really laid the wood,” House said. “He's doing some good things.”

Struck by reality and eager to make amends, Pitts said his focus has been restored.

“I feel like (good play) is going to catch up to me and do me justice,” he said.

If Pitts improves, his rebirth could help resurrect the season, starting Saturday at Syracuse and continuing back home Nov. 29 against Miami.

Pitt (5-5, 2-4 in the ACC) is looking for its first winning season since 2010.

“There were times when we played up and down,” Pitts said. “We came out flat in some games and then we pick it up in the second half.

“We have to take ownership for ourselves and want to play and be dominant the whole game.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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