One official each with the Big Ten Conference and NCAA backed up the review decision to overturn Iowa punt returner Cooper DeJean’s 54-yard touchdown at the end of the Gophers’ 12-10 win over Iowa on Saturday.
Big Ten coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo and NCAA rules editor Steve Shaw addressed the call of an invalid fair catch signal with the Pioneer Press and Des Moines Register for roughly 25 minutes on Monday morning.
“In this situation, we allowed (DeJean’s) right hand to point to the ball, but if the other hand, if there’s any waving signal, it constitutes an invalid signal,” Carollo said in the video interview.
Carollo did acknowledge one caveat to how the call was administered in Iowa City. “In retrospect, we would have preferred if they were confident that signal was an invalid signal, we should have killed the play” before a return was made, Carollo said.
That would have defused a lot of the negative reaction from the Hawkeyes and their fans fans because the play continued and DeJean appeared to give Iowa a 16-10 lead with 90 seconds left.
Shaw said replay review “came in and properly overturned the call” at put it at the spot where DeJean possessed it, Iowa’ 46-yard line, wiping away a go-ahead touchdown with two minutes left in the game.
DeJean and Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz thought otherwise on DeJean’s arm movements.
Ferentz also took issue with, in his mind, the review going from whether DeJean stepped out of bounds to a decision on the invalid fair catch signal.
“They didn’t deem it, they didn’t see it, they didn’t rule on it during the actual play, but it is a reviewable play,” Carollo clarified. “Once you go to replay, you have a chance to look at all aspects of the play.”
Hawkeyes fans were disgruntled by the fact that Big Ten official Tim O’Dey, who was the referee on Saturday, was the line judge for Floyd of Rosedale game in Minnesota in 2022, when Hawkeyes linebacker Jack Campbell had an interception return called back for stepping out of bounds late in Iowa’s 13-10 win.
Carollo said the call to review the play on Saturday was not made by O’Dey, but came from the booth at Kinnick Stadium.
“We all make mistakes, different position, different game,” Carollo said. “I usually don’t comment on past games. But I did acknowledge at the time we made a mistake, you know, made a mistake that we should have killed the play. But Tim O’Dey is 60 yards away from this play. He has nothing to do with it except for listens. He does watch, but replay is making the final decision at the booth in Iowa.”
Carollo said there was “no consideration” to not put O’Dey’s crew on this year’s Floyd of Rosedale game.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said: “There is nothing controversial about it. Offsides is offside. A false start is a false start. A hold is a hold. An invalid fair catch signal is an invalid fair catch signal.”
DeJean appears to be signaling for his teammates to get away from the bouncing punt, which can be known as a “Peter” or a ‘Fire” call.
Shaw said the intent of the invalid fair catch signal rule is “we don’t want people covering the kick to have to go through a whole thing of is that a valid signal or is it invalid? Do I tackle this guy or do I not? The rule was put in to protect the receiver. Give a valid signal and then you have protection. If you give an invalid signal, you lose protection, but you still forfeit your right to return it.”
Fleck pointed out Gophers punt returner Quentin Redding gave a signal and tried to return a punt against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 9, but the play was whistled dead after the catch. “We got called for that weeks ago, if you remember,” Fleck said Monday. “We shooed people away from the ball, caught it, wanted to return it. And it was blown dead.”
Fleck sent out a reminder, too. While DeJean’s return was called back, Iowa still had the ball at their own 46-yard line with 92 seconds remaining. A few first downs and a game-winning field goal was still available.
“Still had to go play football,” Fleck said. “Next play, our players respond, we have a sack and (two plays after that) we have an interception. … We still had to make plays.”
That bottom line didn’t stop Ferentz from revisiting the play Monday; Carollo said he and the Hawkeyes coach were set to have a meeting Monday afternoon.