It’s been a fun week in Gopher fandom. Every day the Michigan message boards creep towards clarity. Michigan State’s athletics department capped off an impressive run of incompetence that started in 2018 by putting an Austrian on their jumbotron. Rutgers is bowl eligible. Oh, and Minnesota beat Iowa.
Wednesday, October 25, 2023
I really hate Wisconsin. Like, an every-fiber-of-my being, diagnosable personality disorder level of hate. I get triggered when I see a Wisconsin license plate. I refuse to be anything more than minimally-friendly acquaintances with anyone who has ever supported that team. I won’t even accept a LinkedIn invite from a UWi grad, because fuck you. It’s pathological, really unhealthy, and mostly survived intact from what was otherwise a wholesale teardown of my thought patterns and coping mechanisms.
I’m mature enough to admit they broke me. Absolutely and totally. I simply couldn’t tolerate losing to our most-hated rival for over a decade, watching them win* the B1G, go to Rose Bowls, and get talked about as playoff contenders. Replace the running backs, quarterbacks, defensive coordinators, head coaches, walk-on linebackers from Minnesota, and our damned stadium and the results were still the same. We lose and I sink further into psychosis.
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
I’m Douglas Fir. Like many of you I watched the University of Minnesota defeat the University of Iowa in a football game on Saturday by the score of 12-10. It was an exciting, extremely B1G West game that came down to the second-to-last possession. Before that fateful possession (in which the Iowa offense, needing just 20 yads to win the game went sack/throw to nobody/throw to somebody in a pretty gold helmet), there was a punt. And on that punt, there was an infraction.
Despite the B1G and NCAA taking time out of their busy day (looking at you, Michigan) to patiently explain to the people that the call on said infraction was correct, there seem to be a lot of objections. I am no great football mind, but I do have the ability to listen and learn, and in my real life, I am essentially a paid researcher and explainer. So, I am taking time out of my busy day (playing Civ VI while listening to Spoon) to put together a Frequently Asked Questions style explainer. Except you aren’t “just asking questions” (unless it’s about a certain ref, see below), you are shouting objections. So, please enjoy my Frequently Shouted Objections (FSOs), with explanations. Or don’t. I don’t care, my team won Floyd.
1) Cooper DeJean (CDJ) didn’t signal fair catch!!!
a. Correct, that’s why it wasn’t called a fair catch.
2) So what was called then?!
a. Invalid Signal. It’s a rule put in place to protect the ball carrier and to not allow punt returners to bait the kicking team into giving up on the play. There’s a whole rulebook entry and everything, you can look it up or you can look up the Des Moines Register article I took this info from. I googled “Des Moines Punt”.
Basically you can’t wave your arm, even below your shoulder.
3) That’s not even a penalty!
a. Correct again! That’s why Iowa wasn’t assessed penalty yardage. But, it does kill the play.
4) But he was just waving his arm for balance!!!
a. CDJ is one of the most athletically gifted players to ever set foot on the turf at Kinnick. I’ve watched that young man play for several years, he is a marvel. He does not run like a toddler trying to escape from a grasshopper that landed near him.
5) If it IS a penalty, why weren’t the Gophers called for a late hit!?
a. As an often-frustrated viewer of Gopher Football, I wish to god our special teams was capable of hitting him. But they weren’t. That’s how he scored the touchdown, you see.
6) So why didn't the Gophers stop? They tried to tackle CDJ!!
a. As mentioned above, they failed. And, as all of us who played 2 minutes of any sport know, you play through the whistle. The Gophers tried to tackle CDJ because the refs didn’t tell them to stop. Iowa did the same thing, a mark of a well-coached team.
7) Well, if it is an infraction, its arbitrary!!
a. It’s actually not! It’s a call designed to take the arbitrary away, and it did! We would be arguing for (more) years if the immediate “you wave your arm, its dead” call didn’t exist. The review would have taken hours, as referees called in mathematicians from Pittsburgh to determine the angle of CDJ’s shoulder. We would have had sports psychiatrists examining the complex emotions of 18-22 year olds, trying to determine if any of the 11 Gophers gave up on the play. What even is “giving up”?
8) So why is it never called?
a. It is, you just forgot cause we all watch a lot of football. It was called in 2015 against Wisconsin, you were probably watching and laughing. I bet you even tried to explain to your bored partner why they called it. It was called against the Gophers THIS YEAR against EMU. If you think CDJ’s hand wave is minor, wait till you see that one! And our guy might even be able to make the toddler-running argument (he is very small)!
9) Well, it violates the “Spirit of the Rule”!!
a. OK, first of all, that sounds like a boat a dictator would own. Like if someone told you that Peron ordered the Dirty War from a superyacht called “the Spirit of Rule”, you wouldn’t even question it. Hell, I’d believe it if you told me that Chris Doyle owned a Sea-Doo named that. Basically, I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, the rule is the rule, and that’s also its spirit.
10) They can’t even review that!
a. They can (and should) if the guy almost runs out of bounds. (see point 18)
11) It’s not even what the review was for!
a. Doesn’t matter. Has never mattered. If you think that sucks, welcome to the party, the guest list is every sports fan.
12) OK, let’s say CDJ does the same thing, but he fumbles and the Gophers recover, I bet it’s not reviewed then!
a. I think it is? Would be a turnover play and I’m pretty sure those are always reviewed. Also, historical fiction is best left to Robert Harris.
13) OK, let’s say that CDJ is tackled on the 2, I bet it’s not reviewed then!!
a. If he almost ran out of bounds in this fake play you made up, it would be. Seriously, Fatherland is a pretty interesting read. And he has more!
14) Well I’ll wait until I hear from the league office!
a. See I actually thought this was in play, like I said I am no great football mind and I’ve been wrong before. Boy, was I wrong about being wrong (and I am a big enough man to own that accidental correctness). Actually, they issued a…non apology? Reassertment? A Doubling-down? I’m not sure what you’d call it but they came out today (Monday) and said “not only did we get it right, here’s why” (see Point 2).
15) But they told Kirk Ferentz it was a fair catch on the field!!
a. I think a couple things are possible here. One is he misheard. Another, he chose to mishear (I cannot tell you how many people I’ve interacted with that still think point 1 is true). Third, it’s better to accuse the ref of lying (no penalty for him at all) than to accept that it was a mistake, a dead play, and his son’s offense moved the ball 12 YARDS (36 feet, 10.973 meters) in the second half of a rivalry game.
16) I watched the clip, and it doesn’t even seem like PJ Fleck thought it was a penalty!!!
a. Oh, if PJ Fleck thought it was a penalty you’d be good with it? Yeah? That’s how we decide penalties in Iowa City now, a man in capris you call “Phillip” gets to decide?
17) The ref blew a call in a MAC/Big 12 game seven years ago, and we are supposed to trust this guy?!
a. You got fired from a job in your 20s, how can I trust you?
18) The ref blew a call in the Iowa-Minnesota game last year and we are supposed to trust this guy!?!? And he is from NEBRASKA!?! A little FISHY?!?! JUST ASKING QUESTIONS HERE!!!!!
a. This is actually one of my favorites, because I am lazy and you already answered this one yourself! He DID mess up a call in the biggest play in the IA-MN game last year. For those that don’t remember, Iowa LB Jack Campbell picked off a tipped pass, raced to his right, hugged the sideline, cut back across to his left and scored what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown (I remember because I will never forget). Except he didn’t, because the ref said he stepped out AND BLEW THE PLAY DEAD! That’s a really big mistake, and one that made the result of the rest of the play non-reviewable! You (Iowa fans) were really upset that he blew the play dead from the moment that play happened until Saturday at like 6:30 pm when you suddenly became big “blow the play dead or it’s cheating” advocates. This time he didn’t blow the play dead, the review got the call right (See point 14). Also, lots of people are FROM Nebraska. Nebraska isn’t a place you end up in, it’s a place you leave.
19) They told Kirk in a meeting before a game that CDJ could do that!
a. They told him he could do what, exactly? They told him he could ran naturally like a toddler? They told him he could make an invalid fair catch signal? Or they spoke briefly about how he likes to signal fair catch and they moved on. Latter seems likely.
20) They stole this moment from the fans!
a. Nobody stole anything from anyone. You paid your money for 60 minutes of football, they played them. If it makes you feel better, the play never even happened. It was always dead, they just didn’t realize it yet.
21) They stole this moment from CDJ!!!
a. I feel bad for CDJ, I do. I have a ton of respect for him, and I wish NBC would have shown us anything other than his sad face for 20 minutes. But he did the thing. He rolled through the stop sign, and even though he’s done it before he got caught this time. And it happened at the worst time. He wasn’t going to Kum and Go (Iowa reference), he was going to his wedding. And maybe the cop right there missed it and his boss behind him caught it so it feels even more unfair. And it made him late, and it was embarrassing, and you feel for the guy because maybe he didn’t even do it on purpose. But he did the thing, he broke the rule. It’s on tape and everything (IDK some sort of stop sign camera, stick with the analogy).
22) Well, I still don’t feel like this was fair!
a. Hey, been there boss. It gets better. Go beat Nebraska in a few weeks, that will get you through the long summer. Always works for me. Also, now you can tell yourself that it wasn’t fair, which is a super easy and fun way to cope.
Hope this helped.