A salute to Mr. James for seeing what the 38,274 fans at Yankee Stadium viewed first hand after Adrian Hilburn did nothing but offer a right-hand salute to the K-State crowd after scoring on a 30-yard reception from Carson Coffman to close the difference to two, 36-34, with 1:13 left in the game.
It would be the debated final score of the inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl played against Syracuse here at Yankee Stadium Thursday afternoon.
One can only wonder why, but perhaps the officials had had enough of the chilly 39-degree day.
To Hilburn, his post touchdown salute, which he said was partially in recognition to soldiers, was no different than what he called the "diamond sign" that the Syracuse players did after scoring all day long. (Connencting their thumbs and forefingers together to form the shape of a diamond.)
As the unsportsmanlike penalty flag hit the turf, Hilburn said the official's comment was, "Wrong choice, buddy. I just said, ‘Oh really, for that?' "
Yes, for that one-second salute, K-State was penalized 15 yards and had to try its possible game-tying two-point conversion from the 18 yard line.
Hilburn said the salute was something you do "… out of respect for your teammates or your fans."
"Maybe we're on their (SU's) turf and I shouldn't have done that, but I don't think it was a good call, and it hurts me," said Hilburn, who had five catches for 84 yards on the day. "I shouldn't have done it, but at the same time it was an emotional moment for me, and my emotions took over."
Hilburn, who said he'd never been flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty at any level during his career, said it was not a planned move, but just one made out of excitement of the moment.
"I'm hurt, I'm devastated," said Hilburn, who said he thought it was on him that he let the team down. "My teammates kept telling me it was a bull call and that they would back me up for the rest of my life."
And his teammates were hurt and devastated for him.
Quarterback Carson Coffman, who passed for 228 yards and two scores, said of the call, "I thought it was a bogus call. They (SU) were holding up ‘the rock' after every score. I didn't see it, but I heard that Adrian saluted and you can't do that, but in that situation it was a bit bogus."
Zach Kendall added, "It was disbelief when it happened, but it's the cards we were dealt. It's a hard pill to swallow."
On the call, with typical coach Bill Snyder class, the Wildcat coach would only say, "I can't comment on that. (Pause) I really can't."
Asked what explanation he received from the official, the Wildcat coach said, "I really can't. I'm having a hard time avoiding this issue. Yes, he gave an explanation. The young man (Hilburn) did something to call attention to himself."
On whether he favors the intent of the rule in general, Snyder said. "I concur with the rule in regards to the intent of the rule. I concur with that."
Syracuse coach Doug Marrone's style of a no comment was, "I didn't even see it. My mind was going to the next play."
COMMENT FROM REFEREE TODD GEERLINGS FROM THE BIG 10:
Rule cited: Excessive celebration is rule 9-2-13, which states penalty is called for: ‘Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player attempts to focus attention on himself (or themselves).' "
What caused the penalty: "It was the salute, which was the judgment of the calling officials, which were the head linesman and the back judge. Two officials threw the flag, both judged it to be drawing attention to themselves, and that's what the flag was for."
Were you watching for any celebrations? "These kinds of excessive celebrations have been a priority in the rule book for the last several years. There's a whole page in the rulebook pertaining to sportsmanship."
PREGAME KEYS TO A WILDCAT VICTORY:
• Handling pressure and eliminating negative yardage plays: K-State had six plays go for negative yards (SU had four.)
• Red Zone TDs: K-State was 3-of-4 in the Red Zone … all TDs. (SU was 2-of-2 … both TDs.) • 3rd down conversions: K-State converted 6-of-14, plus converted 3-of-4 fourth-down plays. (SU converted 8-of-14 3rd down plays.)
• Big plays: K-State had 11 plays of at least 10 yards. (SU, known for its grind it out offense, had 16 plays of at least 10 yards with five different players having runs/catches for at least 16 yards.)
• Turnover margin: No turnovers in the game.
• Three and outs: KSU 3, Syracuse 1 … all in the first half.
• Be able to throw the ball: K-State completed 18-of-25 passes for 258 yards and two scores. (SU passed for 239 yards, or 65 more than they had averaged.)
• Special teams play: K-State missed a 38-yard field goal attempt, had a 70-yard Ty Zimmerman punt return for a TD called back on two penalties, had an interference flag on a fair catch by Syracuse, had the second-half kickoff go out of pounds, and, goofed on a fake field goal run in the fourth quarter. (SU missed an extra point and opened the game with a kickoff that went out of bounds.)
• Being ready for something new: KSU allowed SU to score on a flea-flicker, and, down-the-line receiver Marcus Sales caught five passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns. He had gone into the game with 21 catches for 242 yards and one score.
Syracuse totaled 498 yards of offense – 259 rushing and 239 passing -- which was 190 more than they had averaged all year. The Orangeman's 36 points was 11 more than their normal 2010 game.
K-State totaled 379 yards – 121 rushing and 258 passing.
On putting up those numbers against the No. 5 total defensive (295 yards) team in the country, Snyder said, "We sustained drives by converting third-down attempts and had repetitive first downs."
WRAPPING UP THOMAS' CAREER:
Daniel Thomas wrapped up his career with 90 yards on 22 carries and his first three-touchdown game of the season.
"I think I did what I could with the opportunities I had," said Thomas. "The ground was very hard to cut on, so we thought we had to air it out a bit."
Of Thomas' game, Snyder said, "Daniel is the same guy he's always been. He has great success when we do well up front, and we struggled up front and he struggled, too."
For the record, here are Thomas' records:
• 2,850 career rushing yards, No. 2 in KSU history
• 1,585 rushing yards in 2010, No. 2 in KSU history
• 545 career carries, No. 3 in KSU history
• 30 career rushing TDs, No. 4 in KSU history
• 19 rushing TDs in 2010, No. 2 in KSU history
• 1,756 all-purpose yards in 2010, No. 6 in KSU history
• 3,303 all-purpose yards for a career, No. 5 in KSU history
Of those records, Thomas said, "It's a great feeling because we've had some great backs come through Kansas State. To be No. 2 in such a short amount of time is special and now I can sit back and enjoy those accomplishments."
Daniel Thomas became KSU's No. 2 all-time rusher with his 90-yard performance, which included three touchdowns.
Thomas also completed a 30-yard pass. Carson Coffman, who caught his first career pass – passed for 228 yards on 17-of-23 throwing;
Adrian Hilburn caught five passes for 84 yards and a TD.
• The attendance was 38,274. Kickoff temperature was 39 degree.
• Ironically, Thursday's 36-34 score was identical to the last bowl game played at Yankee Stadium which was the Gotham Bowl in 1962 when Nebraska defeated Miami, 36-34.
• KSU is now 6-8 in all-time bowl games.
K-State and Eastern Kentucky play on Sept. 3, 2011, at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.