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Blackmon, Hilburn prove rule is nonsensical

A pair of Big 12 receivers made headlines with a pair of touchdowns in their respective bowls, Kansas State's Adrian Hilburn and Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon.

With his team trailing by eight late against Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Hilburn scored on a catch-and-run, and issued the now-infamous "Bronx Salute," staring into a group of Kansas State fans in the stands and saluting them.

Blackmon, on a wide-open 71-yard touchdown the day before, took a horizontal detour across the field before crossing the goal line in the first quarter.

Hilburn was flagged. Blackmon was not.

Big 12 coordinator of officials Walt Anderson told The Oklahoman he didn't see anything wrong with Blackmon's move.

“There's nothing wrong with a player running horizontally, there's no rule that says you always have to be moving vertically on the field,” Anderson said.

Anderson pointed to the fact there could have been a strategic reason for Blackmon's decision to run along the goal line. He also noted that the Biletnikoff winner did not gesture toward his opponent during the play.

To be clear, I didn't have a problem with either gesture. In my perfect world, neither would have been flagged. I can see why Blackmon could have upset some people. I can't see why Hilburn would have upset anyone.

I won't even address the absurd notion that Blackmon could have had a "strategic reason" for running horizontally on the play. In some cases, that's true. In Blackmon's, it's absolutely not.

But let's take another look at how the rule is written:

Excessive celebration is rule 9-2-1d, which states a penalty is called for:

"Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player attempts to focus attention on himself (or themselves)."

Originally, I agreed with the call in principle, admitting that, Hilburn was, in fact, drawing attention to himself. The argument could be made that Hilburn's goal was draw attention to the fans who had made the trip to Yankee Stadium, and he'd done his best to make their trip worthwhile, but he's the one who made the gesture.

But the flag should only be thrown if a player draws attention to themselves with an action that fits one of those criteria.

Regardless of what the official in that game believed, Hilburn's salute was neither delayed, excessive or prolonged. Choreographed? Perhaps.

Blackmon's detour, though he hadn't scored yet, was all three and certainly drew attention to himself.

Rule changes that now give officials the power to take points off the board beginning in the 2011 season and will get plenty of attention, but I hope the excessive celebration rule is one that gets a closer look this offseason, too.