Iowa’s 12-10 loss to Minnesota was defined in the game’s final two minutes by a go-ahead touchdown called back after review. The stunning overturn of a miraculous 54-yard punt return by Hawkeyes star Cooper DeJean became the type of decision to require more clarity. On Monday, Big Ten coordinator of officiating Bill Carollo and NCAA rules editor Steve Shaw spoke at length with the Des Moines Register and St. Paul Pioneer-Press about the controversial decision.
DeJean’s punt return for a touchdown was overturned after replay determined he made an invalid fair catch signal before fielding the ball. The controversial call, coupled with a raucous crowd at Kinnick Stadium,to close a bitter Big Ten West rivalry.
The chief question is whether DeJean’s return should have been reviewed at all. Although Rule 12, Section 3, Article IV of the NCAA rule book — the section that outlines reviewable plays — does not explicitly state invalid fair catches as reviewable, plays that include the “receiving team advancing after a fair catch signal” are listed. Carollo, according to those on the call, clarified that “all aspects of the play” under review can be examined once the review is initiated. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said postgame he was told the review began to determine if DeJean stayed in bounds during the play.
The NCAA then considers any waiving motion at or below the shoulders to be an invalid signal, which is why the call was reversed after review. DeJean said he was trying to keep his balance with his left arm.
“I can assure you you’ll have returners trying to trick the kicking team players,” Shaw said. “And that’s the intent of the rule. Fortunate or unfortunate, if there’s waving motion, and I think clearly you can look at the video and it’s indisputable that there’s waving motion, then by rule, it’s an invalid fair catch signal, which causes the ball to become dead.”
“If you look a ground video of it, you might say this doesn’t look like much of a wave,” Carollo added. “But if you look at the high (camera view) over the top, he’s actually waving.”
The play will certainly be talked about a long time by the Hawkeye faithful, especially depending on how the rest of the season unfolds. Iowa (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) now sits second in the Big Ten West as a result of the loss. With an excruciating loss in the rearview, Iowa gets the chance to regroup with an open week in Week 9 before returning to action at Northwestern in Week 10. That contest is followed by home games against Rutgers and Illinois before the regular season concludes at Nebraska.