Gophers' Fleck on Iowa's invalid fair catch: 'Nothing controversial about it'

Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck said at his weekly news conference Monday "there’s nothing controversial" about Cooper DeJean’s invalid fair catch signal during the fourth quarter of Minnesota’s 12-10 win at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.

With about 90 seconds to play, Mark Crawford sent a punt to the far sideline. DeJean, the best punt returner in the Big Ten, pointed to the bouncing football with his right hand and appeared to wave with his left hand at teammates to get away from the football. DeJean collected the ball and took it for what appeared to be a go-ahead touchdown with 1:16 to play.

After a review, the referees determined DeJean used an invalid fair catch signal and the ball was blown dead at Iowa’s 46-yard line. The Gophers won the game on a Justin Walley interception, and took Floyd of Rosedale back to Minneapolis. Fleck reacted Monday after watching the play on film.

"There’s nothing controversial about it. Offsides is offsides, a false start is a false start, a hold is a hold. Invalid fair catch signal is an invalid fair catch signal. The way the rule states is invalid fair catch, so everybody thinks it’s above your shoulder and has to look like a fair catch. That’s not part of the rule," Fleck said. "The other part of the rule that was implemented years ago is the Poison Rule. When you ‘Poison’ or ‘Peter’ any call, you cannot advance that ball. You can point to a ball, but with one hand you can’t shoo away people at all. We got called for that weeks ago. The only thing that should’ve happened is it should’ve just been blown dead right there. Don’t even let that play happen because it doesn’t exist, the play doesn’t even exist. It’s a dead ball. No controversy about it."

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz addressed the play in his postgame news conference, and was highly critical of the officiating crew.

"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 children’s hospital," Ferentz said.

He told reporters he was initially told the review was for whether DeJean stepped out of bounds.

"But then somehow we went from there to a whole series of topics. It’s really hard to accept the explanation we got," Ferentz said.

Big Ten official Tim O’Dey spoke with a pool reporter after the game and said, "any waving motion by a receiving team member" is an invalid fair catch signal. "If you look at the video you’ll see that. 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."

What’s probably not being talked about enough is the sequence after. The Hawkeyes still had the ball at their own 46-yard line with 1:32 to play, needing to drive about 30 yards for a potential game-winning field goal.

Danny Striggow then sacked Deacon Hill. Jah Joyner forced pressured Hill and forced a throw away. The game ended on Hill being intercepted by Justin Walley.

"We still had to go play football. That play did not exist, so we still had to go play football. You get pulled over for speeding, ‘Do you know why I pulled you over? No. Well you were going 25 miles an hour over the speed limit. Well I was just keeping up with the flow of traffic,’" Fleck said. "We still had to go make plays."