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WTF Vandy? Quarterfinals: (1) JEFF GREEN TRAVELED vs. (2) Earl Bennett Gets Flagged

Ah, the mid-2000s WTF.

NCAA: Vanderbilt Beat South Carolina 17-6 Photo by Bob Leverone/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images


You knew this one was coming, didn’t you?

The 2006-07 basketball season was a fun one. After starting 1-3, including a season-opening loss to Georgetown (they’ll come up again) and also a home loss to Furman, but then things got rolling: Vanderbilt would go 17-5 over its next 22 games capped by an 83-70 win over #1 Florida, the eventual national champs, a game in which this happened:

Like I said, a fun season. Of course, after that game, Vanderbilt did its stereotypical late-season fade, going 2-3 and losing its first game of the SEC Tournament to Arkansas (which immediately followed a 15-point home loss to the Razorbacks to end the regular season.) At this point, I recall some national sports radio jock predicting that Vanderbilt would be out of the tournament, a prediction that ended up looking very dumb when the 20-11 Commodores not only got in, but were given a 6-seed.

Vanderbilt rolled past George Washington in the first round, then conquered Washington State (coached by first-year head coach Tony Bennett) in double overtime in the second round. That set up a rematch with Georgetown, the 2-seed that Vanderbilt had met in the season opener. That first game had ended up being a fairly easy 86-70 win for the Hoyas; this would not be so easy, with Vanderbilt seeking its first Elite Eight trip since 1965 (and only its second ever.)

Vanderbilt got out to an 18-6 lead early on, and led 32-24 at halftime. The Hoyas battled back, though, and led 64-61 with a minute left. Derrick Byars cut the lead to one with a pair of free throws, and then, after Patrick Ewing Jr. missed at the other end, Dan Cage got fouled on the rebound and sank two free throws to give Vanderbilt the lead with 19 seconds left.

And then, well...


13 years later, my blood still boils when I watch that clip. Yours should, too.

(2) Earl Bennett Gets Flagged for Excessive Celebration at Florida, 2005

In 2005, Vanderbilt went to The Swamp to play the #13 Florida Gators. With 4:00 left in the game, Vanderbilt got the ball back after a Florida drive that took 8 minutes and 52 seconds and ended in a Gator touchdown to give the home team a 14-point lead. Jay Cutler went 7 of 10 passing to march 61 yards in 1:54 to get the Commodores within 7 points. Bryant Hahnfeldt’s onside kick was bobbled by a Florida player then recovered by Andrew Pace. Cutler would go 3 of 8, but he completed two critical throws on 3rd down. Then Smokin’ Jay zipped a pass to Earl Bennett in the back of the end zone to get the score to 35-34 pending the extra point. Head Coach Bobby Johnson was going to call a timeout and almost certainly attempt a 2-Point Conversion, but there was some yellow laundry on the field.

Earl Bennett had danced and gotten called for excessive celebration. The receiver who caught the crucial touchdown had shown his freshman immaturity and done something to draw the ire of the officials. A chance to win the game in regulation was squandered by a player not controlling his emotions. Then ESPN2 showed the replay. The officials were apparently trained by this guy.

After Bennett’s footloose moment, Hahnfeldt would make the extra point, and Vanderbilt stopped Florida’s last drive. The Commodores would then score first in overtime before the Gators scored on their 2 straight drives. Unfortunately, Jay Cutler’s first pass of 2OT would be picked off to end the upset bid.

Now, Vanderbilt may not have scored on the 2PT Conversion attempt and lost anyway. It does not matter. Earl Bennett’s shoulder shrug and chest bump is the least celebrating I can imagine a player doing after scoring such an important touchdown against a highly ranked opponent. I wish the ref had to explain what was excessive about the celebration. It probably has something to do with the jersey Earl was wearing.

By the way, this is my second memory of Vanderbilt athletics. The first will appear in this space tomorrow. I am sure this moment means different things depending on a person’s stage of Vanderbilt fandom when it happened. For me, it was a crushing announcement of reality. The Commodores are doomed to always screw it up or get screwed. How am I still the Sunshine Pumper President? I guess I just need a reason to dance like Earl.


Which moment advances?

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  • 57%
    (74 votes)
  • 42%
    Earl Bennett Gets Flagged
    (54 votes)
128 votes total Vote Now