IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz suspects University of Iowa football fans who booed Penn State players during injury timeouts during Saturday’s game may have "smelled a rat."
The Hawkeye coach said during his weekly news conference Tuesday that the situation was a bit unusual, likely precipitated by the number of Nittany Lions who left the field and later returned during the hard-fought game between the two teams that entered the game ranked among the top four teams in the nation.
As Iowa worked its way to a 23-20 victory, some fans in the sold-out crowd of 69,250 at Kinnick Stadium jeered any time an athletic trainer sprinted onto the field to attend to an injured Penn State player.
The boos reached a crescendo as the game progressed and Nittany Lions coach James Franklin commented on it afterward.
"I have a hard time with our players getting hurt and the fans and the coaches and the staff booing our players. They don’t run a tempo offense. It was not part of our plan. Obviously, we don’t want … guys that play significant football for us to get injured," Franklin said.
"But to all the Iowa people out there, that was not part of our plan. It would not be. You don’t run a tempo offense. … If one of those kids would have been significantly hurt, and you’re booing them, I’ve got a hard time with that."
Several Penn State players, including quarterback Sean Clifford, defensive tackle PJ Mustipher and running back John Lovett, left the game and did not return.
Others, however, did get back on the field and complete the game.
Ferentz acknowledged both when asked about the situation Tuesday.
"I know a couple of players were legitimately hurt. I know that. I saw one sitting on the bench, for whatever reason, there was an opening and I saw him and I know he had an ice bag on his leg. Obviously, the quarterback didn’t come back," Ferentz said.
"I hope those guys are well. I don’t know what their status is. Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt. Nobody."
Ferentz suspects the jeers weren’t directed at those players.
"I think probably it was a reaction to a couple of guys that were down for the count and then were back a play or two later," Ferentz said. "Our fans aren’t stupid, they’re watching and they know what’s going on."
Ferentz went on to say that in his 23 seasons, he could only recall one other occasion when a similar scenario played out.
In a 2011 game against Michigan State, Iowa fans booed during the second half of a game at Kinnick Stadium when Spartans players started dropping with frequency, prompting an injury timeout and then returning a few snaps later.
It’s an issue that crops up occasionally in college football, typically when one of the two teams involved runs a tempo offense, but that wasn’t necessarily the case with either team in Saturday’s game.
"I know it’s a topic nationally right now. It was one of those discussions of the rules that they don’t quite know the answer to," Ferentz said.
Franklin and Ferentz have both said this week that they don’t coach players to force a clock stoppage by faking injuries.
Ferentz didn’t name names but conceded that there are programs that have been known to do that.
"There are two people (working) in our building that have been places where that was ‘scuba’ or ‘dive,’ no, ‘scuba’ and ‘turtle’ were the code words. So it does go on, but we don’t coach it and haven’t really been exposed to it," Ferentz said.
"Our fans, I thought they smelled a rat, I guess. I don’t know, so they responded the way they responded."