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This past weekend's college football match between Vanderbilt and Missouri wasn't much of a football game. Missouri trounced Vanderbilt 41-0. There was never a contest to be had here, and Missouri had comfortably covered the 14-point spread by halftime -- then went on to cover it by a factor of 3. This otherwise un-noteworthy game did, however, make headlines. That is because this game saw another breaking of the glass ceiling for women in football. In this game, Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play football for a Power 5 conference.

Sarah Fuller is a senior goalkeeper for Vanderbilt's soccer team -- a team that has performed much better than the football team, going 8-4 and sweeping the SEC tournament. She was recruited onto the football team as a place-kicker after COVID-19 contact-tracing forced much of Vanderbilt's special teams roster into quarantine.

Sarah Fuller kickoff for Vanderbilt to start the second half,
and became the first woman to play in a Power 5 football conference game.

Vanderbilt's offense couldn't do anything all day, so sadly, Sarah never got a chance to kick a field goal or extra point. Her only play in the game was the second half kickoff, which she squibbed to the sideline for no return. She didn't get to score any points, but she did play.

Her kick was the only Vanderbilt highlight worth sharing, and it was shared on social media by the school and by multiple sports media outlet, where it was subject to lewd comments and ridicule by pathetic men -- because of course it was. Men criticized the kick for being squibbed for only 35 yards, completely failing to recognize the context in which the kick was made. The team was coming back from halftime, down 21-0. It is not uncommon for a team to squib a kickoff in such a situation in order to prevent a return for touchdown. It was a (for lack of a better word) "workman-like" kick.

Besides, even if the distance wasn't impressive, her placement of the ball was. It landed within a few yards of the sideline without going out of bounds. This is probably exactly where the coaches wanted her to put the ball. A ball so close to the sideline might discourage the returner from attempting to field it in the hopes it would go out of bounds, result in a penalty, and give the team even better field position. If unfielded, the ball would be live, and could be recovered by the kicking team. I would not be surprised if this was a designed kick with the hopes of tricking Missouri into giving up a turnover and put some spark into Vanderbilt's offense. Unfortunately, the kick bounced and was downed by a Missouri blocker, leaving Vanderbilt with no chance to recover the ball. All the men criticizing Sarah's "weak" kick, possibly only served to highlight their own weak knowledge of the sport of football.

And that was it. One play, and now Sarah Fuller's name is forever enshrined in college football history.

Oh, and by the way, not that she needed to, but Sarah herself posted a highlight to Twitter of her kicking a soccer ball across the soccer field to prove that she can, indeed, put some distance behind the ball.

She didn't need to, but Sarah responded to "critics" with a highlight of a soccer kick with plenty of distance.

It is worth noting that Sarah is not the first woman to play in college football. She's not even the first woman to play in Division-I college football. That honor belongs to Katie Hnida, who was a place-kicker for the New Mexico Lobos. She played in New Mexico's 2001 appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl, where she had her sole extra point attempt blocked, then went on to actually score two extra points two years later (making her both the first woman to play, and score, in a D-I college football game).

I bring this up because I've long been an advocate for including women in football video games. In fact, my most recent YouTube video is an impressions video about the new The Yard game mode in EA Sports' Madden NFL 21. In that video, I criticize EA for including a self-described "back yard football" game mode, but failing to allow the user to create a female player avatar. I show in the video that EA had already used a female character model in gameplay as part of its Madden 18 Longshot story mode, so it's not like there's some technical limitation that prevents them from implementing women in the game, and in fact, they already have working assets to do so. "If it's in the game, it's in the game", right? Well women are in the game. So put women players in the game already!

That video was released early to Patrons last week (before Vanderbilt's game had been played, and Fuller's potential participation had been announced). It is scheduled to go public in a couple days, but I'll post it here a bit early for my loyal blog readers. Had I known Sarah Fuller might play in Saturday's game, I might have either delayed the video, or at least mentioned her possible play-time in the video. Ah well.

I've criticized EA for not including women in Madden, right up to last week,
when I published an impressions video of The Yard.

Sarah, I want you to know that you have my full support, and I hope you get another shot to play, and potentially kick a field goal or extra point, for Vanderbilt again. You go, girl!

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