It's no secret football referees at the college and pro level have made an effort to crack down on excessive celebrations in the end zone the past couple of years.
No more Terrell Owens sharpies, Chad Ochocinco playing golf or Joe Horn making a call on his cell phone after touchdowns.
All the more reason Thursday's Pinstripe Bowl, a 36-34 Syracuse victory over Kansas State in New York, had one of the more disappointing conclusions to a game that I've seen in some time.
With Kansas State trailing by eight, receiver Adrian Hilburn caught a simple pass near the sideline, made a Syracuse cornerback miss a tackle and outraced the rest of the Orange secondary to the endzone. It was only the second touchdown Hilburn, a senior from New Braunfels, Texas, had ever scored.
Shortly after crossing the end zone, the referees inexplicably flagged Hilburn for one simple salute to the crowd. Worst excessive celebration call I've ever seen:
That's all it took. A simple salute. You know, the same sort of thing Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor does after momentum-swinging dunks. The same sort of thing Denver Broncos players do after scoring touchdowns at Invesco Field at Mile High.
Excessive celebration calls are not rocket science. They're obvious. That's why it's deemed excessive. If a knucklehead does anything ridiculous after scoring a touchdown that draws attention to himself, it's a 15-yard penalty. Simple enough. Fair enough.
Except the way the referees treated Hilburn was anything but fair. Hilburn told reporters after the game that the referee told him, "Wrong choice, buddy," for his salute.
Both the head linesman and the back judge threw flags after Hilburn saluted the crowd.
“These kinds of excessive celebrations have been a priority in the rulebook for the last several years,” Big Ten referee Todd Geerlings told reporters after the game. “There’s a whole page in the rulebook pertaining to sportsmanship.”
Did anyone watch Oklahoma State rout Arizona in the Alamo Bowl on Wednesday night? Justin Blackmon broke free for a 71-yard touchdown in the first quarter and proceeded to sprint along the goal line, as if to taunt Arizona defenders, for several yards before finally breaking the plane to the end zone. Funny thing about that? No flag.
Or how about Tennessee wide receiver Gerald Jones scoring a touchdown in Thursday night's Music City Bowl, doing a wacky dance, then saluting twice? Common theme here? You guessed it. Again, no flag.
Consider me beyond puzzled.
I'm not saying Kansas State would have won without the flag. The Wildcats, who trailed by two points after the touchdown, would have had to convert the two-point conversion, hold Syracuse for the final minute of regulation and outplay the Orange in overtime.
Instead, K-State had to attempt a two-point conversion from the 17-yard line. Odds for conversion, not so great.
The Wildcats deserved a much better chance at extending that game. They were jobbed, plain and simple.
What did you think? As always, discuss.