Wednesday Notebook

Pitt has produced just two turnovers since coming off the bye week on November 4, while turning the ball over eight times during the same stretch.

In Friday's loss to West Virginia, Pitt fumbled the ball four times, with three of them being recovered by the West Virginia defense. Though it hadn't been a problem this year, especially with Dion Lewis, there is already extra emphasis in practice this week on protecting the ball.

"Just take care of the ball," Lewis siad. "When the crowd (of defenders) comes around, just protect it with two arms, and try not to fight for extra yards, and focus on protecting the ball.

"They were playing a great effort to strip the ball; pretty much every time. They did a great job, but there's still no excuse. We still have to protect the ball. In this game (against Cincinnati), I have to make sure I do that."

During the last three games Pitt has turned the ball over eight times; five fumbles and three interceptions. During the same stretch, the defense has produced just two interceptions; a Jarred Holley interception on the first play of the game at UConn, and an Antwuan Reed interception on the final play of the game at South Florida.

While Lewis talked about the offense, particularly the running backs, stressing the importance of protecting the football, defensve end Jabaal Sheard talked about the importance of producing turnovers to help the offense.

"We always focus on turnovers every week; try to get a turnover in practice," Sheard said. "Every week, our goal is six turnovers in practice. That sounds crazy, just to get six turnovers against scout-team offense, but in a game, turnovers come in a bunch. If we can get one or two, it sure is going to help our offense; especially with everyone saying their defense is weak. I know we have a talented offense. If our special teams shows up and get a couple turnovers, we should be all right."

Two times, in talking with reporters, Jabaal Sheard referred to getting eating, or being hungry. He's talking about getting sacks, and in this case, the quarterback is the food.

Last week against West Virginia, Sheard said the offensive line shifted over one spot to double-team him. It prevented him from getting sacks, but Chas Alecxih did get two sacks.

"I'm happy with Brandon on the other end to free me up; whatever we do to get this win," Sheard said. "If they're going to put three on me, and everyone else gets to eat, and we win the game, I'm happy with it. I do get to eat too. I'd love to have a sack or two. Whatever it takes to get the win."

Earlier in the day, it was announced that Sheard was selected as a finalist for the Hendricks Award, which is given annually to the nation's top defensive end. Again, Sheard he used a hunger/eat reference. For the season, Sheard has 45 tackles including 12.5 for losses, nine sacks and a team-best four forced fumbles. Monday, he was named to the AFCA All-American team.

"I'm honored, I think my defense helped me to get it; definitely coaches (too)," Sheard said. "I'm happy my mom noticed it. I'm happy to make my mom proud. It was a tough time going home (before the season) that made me hungry this year, and I got a chance to eat. My defense played coverage and got me enough time to get to the quarterback and put up numbers."

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