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AW SKEET SKEET! VANDY/UF AFTERMATH

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Humility is something hard earned by most fans. The cycle of fandom works something like this in most instances:

1. The Glorious Attraction. The initial stage in infatuation when the budding fan latches on to the shiny thing of a team during a glory period, drawn to them irresistably by a team's panache, geographical relevance, or sheer ability to grind opponents' bones into powder. A heady, painless bliss of victories and bowl games, lasting as long as the period of team dominance but often longer. Side effects include conflation of personal goals and aspirations with team performance ("I got laid on the same day Leinart threw five tds, dude*. Coincidence? I think not...") , deification of head coach or key players, and a pleasant, vaseline-on-the-lens glow around associated memories.

2. The Great Earthening. The second stage, where the revered team suffers through an extended patch of mediocrity, and the fan endures extreme shame and agony in the name of Liken said stage to point in relationship where you discover wonderful, hellcat-in-sack girlfriend pulls all the hair out of her head when stressed and has troublesome substance abuse problem. The Great Earthening describes the process where the fan discovers gravity, hitting earth with shocking force as their team drops home games to formerly lowly rivals, loses all sense of flair or identity, and hires someone for the head coaching position by pointing randomly at the phone book until someone accepts. Side effects include heavy drinking, development of additional life activities referred to as "hobbies, " and increased time spent with family and significant other.

Zook. Callahan. Davie. Hackett. Goff. Pain.

3. The Levelling. The third and final stage sees the dedicated fan return to stasis as their team redeems itself with renewed excellence and a new probity for the fan. Yes, the team needs you; but doubt and skepticism forever spoils the air of invincibility for you, and your fandom is a leveraged, cautious one. The fan treats every player as an unknown quantity from game to game, waiting for every walk-on to sprout wings and carry their team to victory, expecting every blue-chipper to grow horns and play the part of the goat. The Levelled fan expects nothing and watches all with the cold eye of someone who was burned by the fantasy of their youthful ardor and does not wish to endure the pain a second time. Victory is not as sweet, but losses, since they could come at any time, are less painful. Humility, even in small doses, is a constant.

Consider us properly levelled fans in that we, after watching Florida win a convoluted shootout with the Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday night, were cautiously ecstatic. Yes, that was Vandy out there throwing for 350 plus on our secondary. Woody Widenhofer Vandy. Gerry DiNardo Vandy. You know, Vandy Vandy. That was Vandy who came a horrific celebration penalty away from tossing a nearly certain two-point conversion and making Florida drive the length of the field in less than two minutes to win the game. Vandy, on Saturday night, nearly beat Florida at home. Moral victories suck ass, but Commodores, you may claim one anyway. You were a blown call and a 2-point play away from pulling off the upset of the millenium thus far.

But shit happens in a game...like having your badass midget of a corner bust his leg up and forcing the weakest part of the defense--the ragged second-stringers of the secondary--onto the field against the best quarterback in the SEC. Not opportune timing, and it showed as Kyle Jackson and Reggie Lewis showed time and time again by allowing Vandy receivers to settle into La-Z-Boy-sized holes in zones for easy receptions. Pair that with the out-of-body experience that Jay Cutler had on Saturday night and you've got an ugly recipe for a victory for Florida.

Several intriguing points on the game, though:

--On a day when 8-0 UCLA got eviscerated by C.H.U.D.-scale sewer dwellers Arizona, perspective must be kept when deciding how self-flagellating to be over nearly blowing to Vandy at home. USC's scariest game last year came to Stanford, after all. Vandy is better than at least three other teams in the SEC, and Cutler made himself a bushel of money on Saturday with the game of his life. Florida's not good enough to take any win for granted at this point. Take the money and run, we say.

They can strike at any time. Be happy when they don't.

--With that said: Vandy played the part of the altar boy to the lecherous priests of the officiating crew on Saturday night. Molestation, pure and simple. Florida may have been jobbed on a few calls, but nothing came close to the sheer felony of calling an excessive celebration call for what amounted to one fifth of the opening move to the Bankhead Bounce. They were stripped of the chance to compete for a victory, and the officiating crew-terrible all night in every phase of the game--finished off a taco turd of an evening with their stanky masterpiece of a shit call. A horrid, horrid thing to see, and not the way any team wants to win.

On the plus side, maybe a new coach will say something derogatory about the "negro athlete" and his "wanton dancing ways" following the fiasco. Bobby Bowden, will you please step forward...

Nevertheless--we'll take it.

--Chris Leak actually looked...dare we say...comfortable in a semi-reconstructed spread. He snapped off an awesome triple option shovel to Kestahn Moore for a TD. He was automatic on the short passing game the whole night, and threw balls around like Ludacris on a weekend in Cancun, hitting 10 different receivers on his way to 257 yards and three tds. Some guy named Chris Leak also led the team in rushing, too, actually pulling the ball out with confidence and taking off for 67 yards and 2 tds. A fine night for Leak, and a crucial one given the enduring skepticism of fans who think Meyer's shoehorning would completely destroy him (count us in on that crowded bandwagon.)

--The methodical, fit-inducing patterns of the Utah team seemed to emerge on offense for the first time on a consistent basis Saturday night. (BUT IT WAS VANDY, you scream. Yes--see point three in the progression of the fan base--we're fully levelled now, and am happy to celebrate any win, including just barely pulling out a dubya against the Inheritance Class at home.) But Vandy, at least this year's Vandy, isn't even Vandy anymore, and they've always been a surprisingly good team on the defensive side of the ball. Back in 1996 we remember almost losing to them in Nashville with the Wunderkind Wuerffel squad, so we don't sleep on the awful potential of suffering a private Black Hawk Down moment to them in early November every year.

Yet the offense--the same measly attack that keyed the "Death of Offense" piece last week--bailed them out with brutal, needling precision. At no point did either defense really look like they knew what was happening in front of them, but Florida's O deserves special mention for not turning the ball over, mounting long, soul-sapping drives, and putting the ball exactly where defenders weren't for most of the evening. Leak pulled a nice Alex Smith imitation all night, and managed to show off his oh-so-pretty green eyes nicely while running through Vandy defenders for two tds.

(The Conscience of a Nation is partial to Leak for his looks, which makes watching football games slightly more bearable now that her Viking rage is tempered by the soothing man-candy of Leak. The spell was broken for one horrible moment in the fourth quarter, though, when a camera shot of Leak talking to Dan Mullen on his headphones was brutally interrupted by a strolling Mike Degory, whose mirror-cracking troll visage snapped the pheromone spell and awoke her to the fury of being neck and neck with Vandy at home. We really should just keep a coffee-table collection of Chris Leak photos to throw at her when a team scores on Florida and her neck flushes red with anger.)

Mike Degory plans to compete in the Kumite after graduation.

--Vandy has much, much, much to look forward to here. First, they've shed their complete doormat status this year. They've got the best quarterback in the SEC and three other teams (Arkansas, Kentucky, and Miss State) have bumped them out of the cellar through fierce competition for the conference's Donkey Prize. They'll beat Kentucky (if you were Rich Brooks, wouldn't you start coming to work naked? Why not?). They stand a good shot at landing the cruelest of death blows to Tennessee in Knoxville, especially after watching pass-happy Notre Dame dismiss them on a so-so day performance-wise in South Bend. We can dream, can't we, of Fulmer grabbing his fat head with his greasy, ham-scented hands and taking out his post-game sorrows by devouring an entire Chevy Tahoe belonging to Randy Sanders? Right?

Rich Brooks: looking for his stapler?

--One last thing: Cocks looking to spray passes all over the field on Gators. Judging from this, the LSU game, and the Tuscaloosa Takedown, this won't be easy, especially with Spurrier's "Aww Skeet-skeet!" game planning against a porous and wounded pass D. On the upside: penis jokes for everyone this week!

*Given the frequency with which Leinart throws 4-5 tds a game, this would be a very poor causal linkage.