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Minnesota upsets No. 24 Iowa after officials overturn go-ahead punt return TD in final minutes

Minnesota upset No. 24 Iowa 12-10 on Saturday after officials overturned what would have been a go-ahead punt return TD by Iowa’s Cooper DeJean with just over a minute to go.

DeJean made an incredible punt return after he caught a bouncing punt near the sidelines. He broke tackles and tiptoed along the paint before cutting back across the field and outracing everyone to the end zone.

The return sent the home fans into a frenzy at Kinnick Stadium. But that ecstasy was short-lived after a replay review overturned DeJean’s return because officials determined he made an invalid fair catch signal before getting the ball.

As the ball was heading toward the sideline, DeJean was pointing with his right arm and waving his left arm out to his side. The wave is what officials said was enough to invalidate the return and Iowa was forced to take over at the spot where DeJean got possession of the ball.

“He points at the ball which is allowed, former referee and NBC rules analyst Reggie Smith said on the game broadcast. “However, with his left hand, he begins giving the get-away signal. This constitutes an invalid fair catch signal. It’s not a penalty, but it causes the ball to become dead at the spot of the recovery.”

According to the NCAA rule book, “A valid or invalid fair catch signal deprives the receiving team of the opportunity to advance the ball. The ball is declared dead at the spot of the catch or recovery.” An invalid fair catch signal is defined as “any waving signal” by a member of the receiving team that does not meet the requirements of a valid fair catch signal.

To make a valid fair catch signal, a player must wave his arm over his head. While DeJean didn’t do that in this case, his arm motions were still enough to cancel out his return.

Iowa (6-2, 3-2) still had a chance to score a go-ahead TD with its offense after the punt, but its drive lasted just three plays as QB Deacon Hill was intercepted on third down to seal the win for Minnesota (4-3, 2-2).

Minnesota’s win puts Wisconsin back in first place in the Big Ten West. Iowa had seized control of the division in Week 7 with a 15-6 win over the Badgers. But Iowa now has two conference losses along with Minnesota and Nebraska while Wisconsin is 3-1 in the Big Ten after a win over Illinois on Saturday.

The over/under for the game closed at a record 30.5 points and under bettors were loving every minute of it. The total was the lowest betting total in the top level of college football dating back to 2003 and both offenses predictably struggled.

Minnesota had 239 total yards on 60 plays while Iowa had 127 yards on 56 plays. The teams combined to go 8-for-33 on third downs, punt 18 times and Iowa turned the ball over three times.