With a wink and a nod, Scottie Hazelton conceded that Kansas State defensive back Jahron McPherson's second-quarter celebration following an interception of Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley — involving McPherson tossing the ball to the ground and having the oblong object spin and spin and spin — was pretty slick.
"I won’t tell you — I won't tell you — that that was a very cool spin and it spun for a long time. I won’t tell you that," Hazelton, the Wildcats' defensive coordinator, said through a smile Thursday.
Jahron McPherson with the interception vs KU pic.twitter.com/xNhCrybFi3— The Kansas State Fan (@Thekstatefan) November 7, 2019
He then turned a bit more serious.
"But I will tell you that it was very upsetting," Hazelton said. "When he got to the sideline, he was excited and I was not. It was kind of the opposite reaction when he got to the sideline. But that was a good play by him. Let’s just say that.”
Hazelton's anger and frustration stemmed from what the ball-spinning celebration wrought: a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. That moved K-State from KU's 42-yard line, where McPherson picked off the pass, back to its own 43. The Wildcats went on to pick up only 16 yards on the ensuing six plays before punting the ball back to the Jayhawks.
"We don’t move the ball. We don’t get any points. That cost us points. That’s a bad decision on our part," Hazelton said. "We should’ve done a better job getting them prepared for what was going to happen on the field with the officials, and how close they were going to call it. Sometimes you assume that we’re more experienced than that, too, and they understand that. So we have to do a better job of that, too.”
The second McPherson's joy got the better of him, Hazelton knew K-State was in trouble. Given the nature of the Sunflower Showdown rivalry, Hazelton said, it is expected that the officials will do everything they can to keep tensions from running too high.
"They’re (officials) going to call everything close. They understand what’s on the line for the guys," Hazelton said. "So you've got to prepare for that, and we obviously didn’t have them prepared for that. It’s as much on us as it is on him."
It wasn't the first time Hazelton had seen McPherson showcase his ball-spinning prowess. He's done it in practice before. And that's where it's supposed to stay.
"They can celebrate in practice all they want," Hazelton said. "That’s where they have the chance to do it."
There is one example of post-play rejoicing Hazelton won't lose sleep over, nor will he try to rein in: defensive tackle Trey Dishon's belly rub celebration.
"I don’t think anybody minds seeing a big guy rub his belly. I think that’s more fun than saying something to the opposing team on their bench. That’s a little bit different.”