IOWA CITY — As with every game, a member of Iowa’s sports information staff went down the line of reporters in the middle of the fourth quarter Saturday soliciting postgame interview requests.
“Who do you want to talk to?’’ he asked, adding with a sarcastic smile: “Other than the officials?’’
In truth, the officiating crew was only partially responsible for the bizarre feel that permeated Iowa’s hard-fought 31-14 victory over North Texas at Kinnick Stadium.
It’s not that the officiating crew really discriminated against one team or the other. They just decided to make their presence felt more than they really had to.
“There was some strange things, that’s for sure,’’ North Texas coach Seth Littrell said, declining to elaborate for fear of being fined.
Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell also chose his words carefully, calling it an “interesting’’ day.
“It was a little different,’’ he said. “It felt different on the sidelines.’’
It was very different. It was weird, peculiar, strange.
We saw things we’ve seldom seen before, maybe never.
Iowa running back Akrum Wadley had a 74-yard touchdown taken away because the officials determined that he was just a little too happy about it as he covered the last few yards into the end zone.
Iowa freshman A.J. Epenesa was slapped with a roughing the passer penalty even though everyone in the stadium saw that he was blocked into the quarterback by an opposing lineman.
In the fourth quarter, the officials called an injury timeout even though no player on either team was hurt.
Iowa scored its first touchdown on a pass that was deflected into the arms of someone other than the intended receiver. There was another play on which both teams fumbled. The officials had nothing to do with those, of course.
Then there were all the video replays. We heard “The previous play is under further review’’ more frequently than we heard the Hawkeye fight song.
In the final minute, with the outcome decided and Iowa draining the clock with routine running plays, it happened one last time. “The previous play is under further review.’’ There was nothing to review at that point. It had just been a few minutes since the referee had gotten a chance to be heard.
“It seemed like there really wasn’t a lot of flow to the whole game,’’ Iowa receiver Nick Easley said. “That’s just kind of the way the game went, I guess. That was a little different … Any time the flow of the game is interrupted, it throws everyone off a little bit.’’
The weirdness began on Iowa’s opening march. The Hawkeyes got to the 7-yard line and Nate Stanley flipped a short pass to Easley, who lunged into the corner of the end zone. He fumbled the football out of bounds as he did so, which prompted the first “The previous play is under further review.’’
No video replay that anyone saw indicated that Easley lost the ball before crossing the goal line, but the officials made that ruling anyway. No touchdown. North Texas ball.
On Iowa’s next series, Stanley fired a pass to the Wadley, who sprinted up the right sideline to score. As he got inside the 10-yard line, he high-stepped it a little bit. It’s something we’ve seen players do hundreds of times, maybe thousands, often much more blatantly than in this instance.
This time a yellow flag came out. No touchdown. Unsportsmanlike conduct.
It was a ridiculous case of over-officiating.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said he told Wadley he was better than that and that he shouldn’t give the officials an opportunity to make a call like that. He didn’t say what he told the officials.
“That’s one of the points of emphasis this year although I thought pants over the knees was a point of emphasis and I saw a game on TV last night where it looked like the guys had shorts on,’’ Ferentz joked. “That is a point of emphasis, I guess, the celebration stuff. That and coaches on the field.’’
It almost seems as though littering the field with laundry and stopping play as often as possible has become a point of emphasis. There were 19 accepted penalties Saturday and that doesn’t count the times that both teams were warned about their coaches being out on the field.
In that Friday game Ferentz saw on television — Illinois vs. South Florida — there were 26 penalties in the first half, the most in any game since 2004.
There seems to be more flag-flinging and video reviewing than ever before, completely stifling the flow of games.
Ferentz said he was told before Saturday’s game that nine cameras were being used to televise the game, but he said he wasn’t sure if there was a correlation between that and the incessant, often pointless video reviews.
“But boy, that kills your momentum, especially that one down to the right of our bench where we were going in for the score,’’ he said. “It seemed like we stood there for five minutes and I’m not even sure what we were reviewing at that point.’’
To Iowa’s credit, it rose above all the stoppages and the strangeness, and took care of business in the second half, even after both of its stud senior running backs went to the sidelines with injuries. It gutted out the second half with a pair of freshmen in the backfield.
“A win’s a win,’’ defensive end Parker Hesse said. “Any time you walk away with a W, it’s something to be happy about.’’