Paul Chryst isn't having the greatest debut season and that continued with a few questionable calls on Saturday.
I preface this by saying it's far too easy to be a Monday morning quarterback. Second-guessing coaches happens all the time and while it may be fair to do so, it's a bit more difficult to make these types of calls in the heat of the moment.
That said, here are my thoughts on Chryst's two questionable decisions against Louisville.
The first came just before the half. Here's the scenario - Pitt's up by seven with a little under a minute to go and just on the other side of the 50 in Louisville territory, are facing a 4th and short. The easy decision presumably is to let the clock run down and punt the ball. That would have pinned the Cardinals deep in their territory with about 30 seconds left and the Panthers should have gone into the half still up by seven.
Instead, Chryst chose to go for it for any number of reasons. He could have been trying to add onto this lead. He also may not have wanted to risk having to punt with a new long snapper this week. And as we saw later with a botched punt attempt, that reasoning may have been justified. But in the end, you've got to trust the special teams to get a good punt away there. Giving Louisville a short field was something Pitt couldn't really afford and as we saw, it cost them.
I won't claim that the field goal cost Pitt the game, but it did swing the momentum and it's plausible that it carried into the third quarter when Louisville completely seized the game.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter. After fighting their way back to get to within ten, Pitt is deep in Louisville territory. The Panthers are just outside of the red zone and on 4th down, need eight yards to pick up a new set of downs. Down a touchdown and a field goal, it doesn't really matter which comes first. Instead of kicking a 39-yard field goal, Chryst goes for it and the offense can't convert.
It's more difficult to find an issue with this call with the way Kevin Harper has been kicking this season. But as I said on Twitter just before the decision, you've got to kick it there. A 39-yarder is far from a sure thing with Harper, but we're not talking 4th and short here - it's 4th and 8. What it really comes down to is where you place more confidence. Do you trust Harper to make a 39-yard field goal more than you do the team's ability to convert a 4th and long? It's a tough question, but I'd have gone with the kick there.
I'm not killing Chryst for these decisions, only pointing out that these were two big ones he had to make and he was 0-2 on the day.