‘Fine me.’ Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz fired up over controversial call in loss to Gophers

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Kirk Ferentz didn’t waste any time speaking his mind in his postgame news conference on Saturday.

The Iowa Hawkeyes’ head coach immediately talked about the controversial penalty for invalid fair catch signal that took away Cooper DeJean’s 54-yard punt return touchdown in the Gophers’ 12-10 win at Kinnick Stadium.

IOWA CITY, IOWA- OCTOBER 21: Defensive back Cooper DeJean #3 of the Iowa Hawkeyes breaks a tackle during a called-back touchdown kick return during the second half by long snapper Brady Weeks #37 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Kinnick Stadium on October 21, 2023 in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

“If the Big Ten deems it necessary to fine me, hopefully they will find it in their hearts to send it to a good cause — like the (University of Iowa) children’s hospital,” Ferentz started.

Ferentz started off saying he thought the officials’ review on whether DeJean stepped out of bounds was fair use of the newer process. “But then somehow we went from there to a whole series of topics,” the longest-tenured Big Ten coach said. “It’s really hard to accept the explanation that we got.”

Big Ten referee Tim O’Dey said an invalid signal is “any waving motion by a receiving team member.” Replay shows DeJean did that with his left arm as the ball was bouncing near midfield and he was approaching it. Ferentz somehow questioned DeJean’s hand movement.

“If you look at the video you’ll see that,” O’Dey said to a pool reporter. “That waving motion of the left hand constitutes an invalid fair catch signal. So when the receiving team recovers the ball, by rule it becomes dead.

“That is a reviewable element of the game,” O’Dey continued. “We let the play run out and then when we went to review, review shows with indisputable evidence that there is a waving motion with the left hand. And that is when these rules are applied.”

That’s where Ferentz might have been scratching his head most.

“How we got from Point A to Point B, I have no idea,” he said. “I don’t know what the path was. I’ve heard the explanation, recording of it. It’s hard to make it make sense.”

Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck stood on the sideline near midfield during that punt return and shared his up-closer view.

“My eyes immediately go back there,” Fleck said of DeJean. “I thought it was a fair catch signal. I’m not an official, right, but there was something. We’ve been called for that before, where we’ve made any type of movement prior to the catch. Then the ball is dead right there. But if it wasn’t, it was a heck of a play by the kid, a heck of a play.”

Ferentz added: “Credit to our opponent. Their effort was good. I thought our guys played hard. Just tough to find the right words to say to our team after something like that.”

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