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PJ Fleck on Iowa punt return: 'There's nothing controversial about it'

Fleck says the return never should've happened.
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"There's nothing controversial about it. Nothing controversial," Minnesota Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck said Monday when asked about the punt return touchdown that Iowa had called back late in the fourth quarter of Minnesota's 12-10 win Saturday. 

"Offsides is offsides, a false start's a false start, a hold's a hold. Invalid fair catch signal is an invalid fair catch signal," Fleck continued. "Now the way the rule states is invalid fair catch so everybody thinks its above your shoulder and it has to look like a fair catch. That's not part of the rule. 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. That's fine. But with one hand, you can't shoo away people. At all. You can't do that."

That's what Iowa returner Cooper DeJean appeared to do – though he said he was trying to maintain his balance with his left arm – when he set up to return Minnesota's punt with about 90 seconds left in Saturday's Big Ten West Division clash.

DeJean wound up fielding the ball on a bounce and miraculously evaded defenders along the sideline before darting to the middle of the field and into the end zone for what appeared to be a go-ahead touchdown. 

Fleck says the return never should've happened. 

"The only thing that should've happened – and I'm not a referee, nor am I blaming anyone – it should've been blown dead right there," Fleck said. "Don't even let that play happen because it doesn't exist. The play doesn't even exist because it's a poison and a peter call and it's a dead ball. No controversy about it."

The announcers on NBC made the assumption that the play was under review to make sure DeJean didn't step out of bounds. That's not what Fleck understood in the moment. 

"I was never told about out of bounds. I was told when they came over to tell me that they were reviewing whether he fair caught it or not," Fleck explained. 

"There wasn't a fair catch, correct. But if you just go like this," Fleck continued, waving his hand as his side to imitate DeJean, "that's going to be dead. Anything low, 'get away from the ball,' that's going to be dead."