The Opinionated Spectator…Panthers played it safe and lost

Alexis PNC Park Final
Alexis Sara Cobb

There is so much excitement in Pittsburgh sports with the Pittsburgh Steelers away game and the Pittsburgh Pirates wildcard race that you may have missed the game played at Heinz Field this weekend.
The Pittsburgh Panthers played against the Iowa Hawkeyes on September 20, 2014. Pitt came into the game undefeated with a 3-0 record. Pittsburgh collected their first loss against the Hawkeyes 24-20.  However, the game’s final score does not tell the full story of what happened during this game.
In the first half, the University of Pittsburgh played fearlessly. Specifically Tyler Boyd and James Conner were having monster games. The Panthers were collectively dominating the Hawkeyes like they were playing a high school team.  Chris James ran for a 13 yard touchdown to put Pitt in the early lead after a 22 yard run by Conner. Pitt 7-0.   The Hawkeyes scored and the University of Pittsburgh’s coaching staff decided to make some bold decisions. The coaches went for it on fourth down twice on a 75 yard drive in 18 plays to put Pitt up 14-7. After a field goal, Pitt went into the locker room at halftime with a 17-7 lead.
The coaching staff was coaching boldly and the players were responding. It was a brilliant first half of football.
The second half started with a Pitt punt. Iowa changed quarterbacks and got a touchdown 17-14. Then Pitt started marching, picked up a personal foul penalty. Kept marching. Picked up another penalty – false start. Pitt was collecting penalties in the second half like it was an Easter egg hunt. Finally, it was third and 14. Chad Voytik threw a beauty to Ronald Jones for 12 yards.
It was fourth and 2 at the Iowa 11. The stadium went crazy! Everyone was hyped up! Ready to go! You could feel the electricity in the air as the players felt like they were ready to get back on track. Pitt had been 2-2 on fourth downs already in the game.
The coaching staff sent the field goal team out. The air went out the stadium.  The coaching staff played it safe.  Pitt 20-14. Pitt never scored another point after that play.
The Hawkeyes started imposing their will and playing smarter penalty–free football and they ended up winning the game. 24-20.
Had the Pittsburgh Panthers gone for it and played fearlessly, they would still be undefeated.
Playing bold and fearlessly is how Pitt got the lead. When Paul Chryst was asked if he considered going for it on that play, he said, “Yeah, we considered it…you think about it, didn’t do it” Paul Chryst stated, “it was important for us to put points on the board.”
I don’t know what the Pittsburgh coaching staff said to the players during halftime. But after the half, Pitt came out and they didn’t play with the same tenacity or fire. Whatever speech they used should be retired.  Immediately.
Altogether, Pitt played in the second half like a team who didn’t understand the importance of sustaining the physicality necessary to win against a solid team. At the end of the game, Tyler Boyd’s stat line was 10 receptions for 153 yards even though he missed a key reception that was a little high in the final drive. James Conner, who was bottled up in the second half, had 29 carries for 155 yards. They both played well and couldn’t enjoy their personal games because the team had lost.
Keep in mind, Iowa didn’t beat Pitt. Pitt lost the game. There is absolutely a difference. When a team stops playing fearlessly and starts playing safe. Then the team will lose. Pitt was no exception.
Alexis Sara Cobb may be reached at:  alexiscobb@ascexec.com or (724) 561-8082  Follow her on Twitter: @alexissara

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