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Despite success, Pitt's defense isn't judging

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011

Pitt senior defensive tackle Chas Alecxih said no rift is developing on the team in light of the offense's struggles and the defense's steady improvement, but he gets asked the question many times.

"You can't think like that," he said. "In my mind, that's a losing mentality: 'I'm doing my part; you have to do yours.' You really can't point fingers. We are a team. I know the offense is going to get better."

Pitt's defense is 11th in the nation in tackles for a loss (56, an average of 8.0 per game) and 15th in sacks (21, 3.0), but it is 97th in turnovers (seven).

"That's a joke," inside linebacker Max Gruder said of the low number of turnovers. "We had almost seven every period in spring practice and camp, and the No. 1 focal point of our defense is we want to create turnovers. We strip every day in practice against our ball carriers, and sometimes it doesn't transition to the game."

Told he is second in the Big East in tackles per game (8.9) and No. 1 in total tackles (62), Gruder said, "I don't care."

• The return to health of senior Lucas Nix could give Pitt's offensive line its fifth new look in six games next Wednesday against Connecticut.

"We are looking forward to having Lucas back," coach Todd Graham said.

Nix started the first five games at right guard before hurting his knee, but he has made 16 starts at right tackle in his career. Barring further injury, the starters on the line will be center Ryan Turnley with some combination of Nix and Matt Rotheram — both of whom can play guard and tackle — tackle Jordan Gibbs and guards Corey King or Ryan Schleiper.

• Safety Jason Hendricks is doubtful with a right shoulder injury, which would leave his position to Andrew Taglianetti and Brandon Ifill. Graham said he won't use freshman safety Lafayette Pitts' redshirt.

"It will be unfair to do that. I think we can get it done with those two guys." Outside linebacker Todd Thomas may return to the lineup. "We are working him back in slowly," Graham said.

• Alecxih apologized for accusing Utah's defensive linemen of dirty tactics.

"I was pretty fired up, and I am a pretty emotional guy sometimes," he said, "and I tend to say what is on my mind without thinking of the consequences."

Graham called Alecxih's comments "inappropriate" Monday.

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