Hawkeyes cornerback Cooper DeJean has a nose for the end zone. He took back a nation-best three interceptions for touchdowns last season. The Hawkeyes’ ball hawk had a quiet first four games for his standards, but against Michigan State his time came to put his imprints on the game.

DeJean intercepted a pass in the back of the end zone in the second quarter. Michigan State’s Noah Kim overshot his targets and DeJean came down with the ball, tapping both boots into the edge of the black turf for his first pick of the season.

Then, with the game tied at 16 and just under four minutes to play, DeJean caught a punt and took it all the way back for a 70-yard touchdown. Kinnick Stadium roared in approval, and the players did the same:

“When number three gets the ball, I just look for the end zone,” linebacker Jay Higgins said. “I mean, he’s just he’s a special guy. Coop in space equals good for the Hawkeyes.”

“As soon as the ball was in the air, I was looking at Coop — there was nobody around,” quarterback Deacon Hill said. “I was screaming, ‘Run, Coop, run.’ He makes one guy miss and then I’m like — my eyes start to get wider and wider. He breaks through and I’m going nuts running down the sideline, you know, screaming, ‘Yes!'”

“Credit to the guys up front doing their job,” DeJean said. “I caught it and there’s a lot of green ahead of me, yet guys blocking downfield for me. It was just my job to read those blocks and try and put it in the end zone.”

“Really good players don’t look like they’re grinding or working that hard out there — but they are,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Everything he does just seems to be natural to him. He’s got a really good sense in the return game. And that’s a big part of it. He’s got the courage to field it. Looks like a tough catch getting to get his foot down, but he makes it somehow. He makes it happen. If Cooper gets to play, something good might happen. And he did a great job finishing the play. He’s just a really good football player.”

For more Hawkeyes coverage, follow @HawkeyeHQ on Twitter and Facebook.

Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean (3) returns a punt 70-yards for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa won 26-16. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)