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The Morning After: The Almost Robbery

A Cooper DeJean touchdown that wasn’t steals the headlines of an otherwise inept offensive showing

Minnesota v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

That sucked.

Let’s start with the complaining. We have to start here - we have a broken review process. It’s a problem in nearly every sport save tennis, the one sport that has this right. If you follow me on Twitter, 1) don’t, but 2) you know I follow the Premier League closely. These joy killer reviews happen there all the time. What look to be perfectly good goals on the field, awarded by the on-field official and celebrated lustily by players and supporters alike, are suddenly chalked off when the referee gets pinged by VAR to review a play. Suddenly we’re drawing lines for offsides or looking for “fouls” in build-up play. The joy gets sucked out of the ground as you start feverishly trying to find a replay on Twitter. Will this stand?? It’s ridiculous and it robs people of joy all the time, making the sport almost unwatchable and questioning legitimacy.

I am now numb to killer reviews. The longer they take, you should all know to brace for impact. No one on the field called Cooper DeJean’s insane, I-can’t-believe-this touchdown a fair catch, and the review seemed to be whether DeJean stepped out of bounds as he dodged 50 Minnesota defenders on the sideline. At least that’s what Kirk Ferentz believed was being reviewed. That’s what I believed - the live broadcast certainly seemed to imply that they were reviewing DeJean’s footwork on the sideline. It was only after they kept reviewing after DeJean was definitely in did I start getting that Premier League vibe. Oh my God, is this going to stand?? So what seems like a perfectly good touchdown is reviewed for one thing, then we get this weird call - technically correct - that any type of hand motion that isn’t a traditional fair catch also rules a play dead because it’s “invalid.” I’m sorry - what?

We all lose in this situation. If you’re a Minnesota fan or a fan that enjoys some schadenfreude, sure, enjoy Iowa tears. Enjoy Floyd for a winter. If it were me and this happened in reverse, yeah, I’d be laughing my ass off at Minnesota and how they still manage to fall into Kirk Ferentz’s trap every year. Instead, we as fans of this sport lost an all-time play. I mean look at this freaking play by Cooper DeJean!

It’s an all-time play, the closest thing I’ve seen to Tim Dwight since he graduated in 1997. In the years I’ve watched Iowa football, going back to 1989, it might be a top 5 play in Kinnick Stadium. And it’s chalked off because a call that is almost never made was actually made, the 1 out of 100 times you see this where it isn’t called. The exact same hand motion, the waving teammates away from the ball but then fielding it since it bounced right to you, was made in the North Carolina-Virginia game. That was not reviewed or called dead on the field. That sucks.

But - there’s always this caveat with Iowa football these days - this all hides the fact that this was a game in which Iowa was outplayed, badly. Kirk nearly got away with it again. I hate saying a team deserved to lose, but...yeah, Iowa deserved this L. Going into Saturday, Minnesota was giving up 373 yards per game. That is 56th nationally. Not great, not terrible. They were allowing a staggering 6.0 yards per play. 96th in the nation, and definitely terrible. The 3rd down conversion rate for Minnesota’s opponents was a comically high 50 percent, “good” for 124th in the country. That is a bad defense.

But we know how this goes. Iowa’s offense makes even awful defenses look like the 1985 Chicago Bears. For a huge portion of the second half, Iowa managed negative yardage. At one point in the middle of the fourth quarter, Iowa had run 14 plays in the second half for -8 yards of offense. -8 yards of offense in the middle of the fourth quarter. They finished the second half with 2 total yards of offense. I’ve compared this offense to Frankenstein’s Monster - the Monster is PISSED OFF to be compared to this nuclear disaster of an offense and is currently rampaging through my house as a result.

This also hides the fact that, despite DeJean’s moment of brilliance being called back, Iowa took over at their own 46, down 12-10, with just over 1:30 remaining and a timeout in their pocket. Iowa had the ball needing 20 to 25 yards to get into a good spot to win the game on a field goal. And they went pass-pass-pass, with the last pass throwing the Big Ten West into disarray. Advantage Iowa last week is now anyone’s division to grab.

So yeah, be mad. I’m unhappy losing to PJ Fleck and his snakeoil bullshit branding. But Iowa football can’t just keep playing game in the margins like this. This is completely unsustainable. They can’t keep getting away with it. Doing so opens you up to a call like we saw today.

Other thoughts:

  • The overturned touchdown still allows Kirk to get away with it to a degree. He can now scream about a bad review process for two weeks instead of fixing his busted offense. And the thing is, I agree with him on this! It’s bad when this stuff gets decided in Pittsburgh or New York or London or wherever the review process takes place in your sport of choice instead of by the officials present in the stadium.
  • There should be a quarterback controversy after Saturday. We know Kirk won’t go down that road in his desperate attempt to avoid the CJB-Rudock, Stanzi-Christensen, and McCann-Banks controversies of yesteryear. There should be competition between now and November 4 in Wrigley Field against Northwestern (get ready for a tough game, you guys. Pat Fitzgerald might be gone and moonlighting on the Iowa sideline, but Northwestern still knows Iowa, inside and out). Deacon Hill - bless him, he’s doing his best. He’s hardly played football since 2020. He redshirted in 2021 at Wisconsin then played in one game last year but had no passing stats. He was thrust into duty due to the Cade McNamara knee injury. So, he’s doing his best. Today though? Today was abominable quarterback play. Passes high. Dropping the ball that leads to turnovers. Passes in the dirt. It was all on display. I can’t believe Joe Labas is worse than this. He might be in practice though?

What does Kirk even mean? Is game performance part of the evaluation? We saw near-turnovers last week, then 3 today from Hill. Does that matter? It feels like it doesn’t to Kirk - Hill is probably clean Sunday-Friday, so he’s the guy on Saturday.

  • Iowa’s quarterback recruiting and development is atrocious. This can’t be overstated. It’s been terrible for years. They could’ve hired a quarterbacks coach this offseason, but instead we were gaslit and Brian was given that responsibility.
  • The offensive line took enormous steps back after some real signs of life the last two weeks. Back to square one there. 0.4 yards per carry against freaking Minnesota.
  • Iowa had 2 total yards of offense in 30 minutes of football.
  • Cooper DeJean could play offense too, you know. He’s Iowa’s best player, without question, and he’s got 19 touches this year. That is criminal. The guy has 4 guaranteed games left in an Iowa uniform - leverage the hell out of that. Or not.
  • After the game, it became known that Iowa will NOT have the coordinators available to the press on the bye week. Instead, players will be made available.

What a chicken shit move. So the players can take the fire, but Brian can’t? The players get to the be the human shield? If that doesn’t piss you off, it should.

  • Kirk wants “complementary football” but this version of whatever Iowa’s trying to do wears your defense out. Iowa’s defense was out of gas in the fourth quarter.
  • Minnesota finally out-Iowa’d Iowa, but PJ Fleck almost biffed it on Minnesota’s final real possession. What on EARTH is he doing passing on second down there? Make Iowa burn all of their timeouts, punt, and trust your bad (but good on Saturday because, you know...) defense to get a stop. Play it like Kirk would play it. Fleck even said himself that he spoke to Bret Bielema and that they discussed how there’s a science of sorts to beating Iowa. Stay patient, don’t get frustrated, don’t lose the plot, and you can get them. He nearly lost it at the end of the game - Kirk actually played the sequence leading up to the DeJean overturned touchdown brilliantly. Fortunately for PJ he got a bailout.
  • That sucked.