Ferentz revisits fair catch call, says Iowa got 'screwed' out of 11 wins

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz yells to his team as they play against Nebraska during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, in Lincoln, Neb. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz) (Rebecca S. Gratz, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

LINCOLN, Neb. – Less than an hour after Iowa recorded win No. 10 with a dramatic 13-10 victory over Nebraska, Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz suggested his team actually should have had a chance to win 11 games in the regular season.

A month after Cooper DeJean's punt return for a touchdown was called back because he was found on video review to have made an invalid fair-catch signal late in a 12-10 loss to Minnesota, Ferentz passionately revisited the episode when he was asked about the importance of winning 10 games.

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“That means a lot because it’s the best we could do after after losing to, yeah, I won't go down that road,” he said.

And then he did.

“We got screwed, OK? I’m just gonna tell you we got screwed on that one by the replay system,” Ferentz said. “I’m still not happy about that, quite frankly. So it’s a different discussion for a different day.”

And then he continued.

“I don’t want to play that card. But I’m playing it right now. That's still the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen the last, what, quarter century? Take that replay stuff and blow it up and start over again. We try to make this stuff rocket science and it isn’t. It's football.”

The play Ferentz is still smarting over involved DeJean's 54-yard return that would have given the Hawkeyes a 16-12 lead with 1:21 left against the Gophers.

The touchdown was overturned after a video review. DeJean was judged to have made an invalid fair-catch signal before fielding the ball near the Minnesota sideline. When a fair catch is invalid, the play is ruled dead at the spot.

DeJean was found to have kept his hands below his shoulders and waved with his left arm. He explained that he was waving his arm to maintain his balance, not to indicate a fair catch. The interpretation is important because a below-the-shoulder wave could trick oncoming coverage players into believing a fair catch was called and cause them to back off, giving the returner an advantage on a runback.

After that game, Ferentz said he initially was told the video review was to check whether DeJean stepped out of bounds after fielding the punt and that he found out later it was to look at what DeJean was doing with his arms.

“Since that game still nobody has told us you can't do this,” he said, demonstrating below-the-shoulder and above-the-shoulder signals. "It’s just, ‘Yeah, it happens all the time.’ That’s a bunch of (expletive). Unbelievable. How do you defend that? That's my question. That’s what really kind of ticks me off.”

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