Even so, at 4-5, with a heartbreaker of a 2 OT Florida loss behind us, we had reason to believe that with upcoming games against a terrible Kentucky team and a beatable UT team, that a bowl game could still be in sight. I met a lot of loyal Kentucky fans who came down to Nashville for the game. I enjoyed making small talk with them and shared my thoughts about the upcoming game with them. I thought that Vandy fans had been taught humility over the years, but these UK fans were the real deal. They would have none of my encouragement. They made the trip down to their lower bunk bed of a state with absolutely no aspirations of seeing a winning effort from their football playing Blue Man Group.
Me: It should be a good game tomorrow.
Them: We don't know about that. You guys should win pretty easily.
Me: Well typically, our games are pretty close, and you know how Vandy is.
Them: Yeah, but your 'Dores are pretty good this year. Heck, you almost beat Florida last week.
Me: Yes, but that's my point. We play up to the big games and down to the small games.
Them: Well, you're still going to beat us pretty easily.
And yet these people made the trip down, got hotel rooms, ate in our restaurants, and were ready to emotionally and financially support this team who had "no chance of winning." But, as my dad says, for UK fans there is basketball season and there is pre-basketball season. They simply enjoy watching their Wildcats play.
Saturday afternoon arrived to reward these loyal, humble travelers. I sat with my dad and my son at this game and watched myself be proven right, and painfully so. Just like that, seemingly mere minutes after kickoff, I watched my Commodores stumble out of the gate to a score of 34-3. How does this happen? We know how it happens. We are Vandy fans. Florida players might be watching this later and they might be asking if this is the same team that took them to 2 overtimes a week earlier. Older, wiser Florida fans won't be surprised though. This is typical Vandy.
Finally, with minutes to go in the 1st half, Vanderbilt came alive and started scoring points. With UK playing a bit softer on defense, we managed to make a game of it. We closed the game with 25 unanswered points and came within 5 points and a failed onside kick of a win. I'll admit that while I resisted to get optimistic about the comeback chances, our team finally got me believing again in the closing minutes of the game. They opened up my heart again, only to whisper into my ear and say, "Hey, at least our academics are exceptional." We lost 48-43.
The win loss record now stands at 4-6, and we are going to UT next week with nothing really on the line. You know what that means. We'll probably handle them soundly. And to the humble UK fans, I say congratulations. You came to support your hapless Wildcats and you got to watch a great win for your efforts. You watched 91 points scored in the thrilla in Nashvilla (that might be a stretch). You watched a game that truly did come down to the wire. Your team won and you were still humble. And because I am a Vandy fan, I understand your humility.
With that humility firmly in place, I say to Jay Cutler, Bobby Johnson, and to the rest of the '05 Commodores, thanks for the 4-0 start, thanks for the close losses, and thanks for the season of fun and excitement. The bowl bid didn't happen, but thanks for letting us believe in the chances so late in the season. There's an accomplishment right there.
And just for fun? Let's beat UT next week.