Around this point in the season, the conference packs really start to spread themselves out, and we certainly saw that in the SEC on Saturday. Across an exciting slate of close contests, Week 4 was defined by seismic wins for a couple of rebounding programs and crushing defeats for a few others.
Where better to start than the de facto game of the week? Saturday’s game in The Swamp gave us another classic iteration of the storied Florida-Tennessee rivalry. For the 11th straight year, the Gators kept themselves on the right side of this matchup after quarterback Will Grier connected with Antonio Callaway on an unbelievable 63-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-14.
The Florida radio call of the play is outstanding — especially what is said in the final seconds of the recording below:
Florida coach Jim McElwain has his team sitting pretty at 4-0, and it should be surging off the momentum of Saturday’s win.
— Only Gators .com (@onlygators) September 26, 2015
On the Tennessee side, coach Butch Jones suffered another agonizing defeat after the Vols blew a 27-14 lead and missed a last-second field goal attempt by mere inches. They suffered a similar loss to Oklahoma in Week 2, giving away a 17-point lead in a game that went into double-overtime.
JONES: We have to start learning how to close games out. We were one play away and we have to close it out.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) September 26, 2015
Like Florida, Kentucky also picked up a win that drastically altered expectations for this season. But for the Missouri Tigers, a 21-13 defeat knocked them out of the Top 25 and has their three-peat bid for the SEC East looking like wishful thinking. Coach Gary Pinkel has put together some quality teams since joining the SEC, but it has simply been a case of “not close enough” in some of his biggest games to date.
Gary Pinkel: "we don't lose a lot of football games. It takes a little piece out of you. This will not define us."
— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) September 27, 2015
Turning our attention to Texas, Arkansas suffered its third straight defeat of 2015 with a heart-wrenching overtime loss to Texas A&M. Despite putting a few teams on upset alert in recent years, Bret Bielema now has an 11-18 record as coach of the Razorbacks. Bielema may realize as well as anyone that his job future is murkier than ever, which maybe explains his emotional reaction during Saturday’s postgame press conference.
Bielema: "I'm tired of playing close. I'm tired of getting a pat on the back."
— Razorback Nation (@RazNation) September 27, 2015
South Carolina was tired of playing close, as well. Trailing a winless UCF team by six points at halftime, linebacker Skai Moore lit a fire under his teammates, who went on to hold the Knights scoreless in the second half.
"The first half was unacceptable to me in my eyes. I just came into the locker room to get everyone’s minds right." – Skai Moore
— John Whittle (@johnmwhittle) September 26, 2015
And then there was Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose Tide beat Louisiana-Monroe 34-0. Our image of Saban has become that of a man who continually criticizes his own talent-laden teams. This season has given us the reverse: Saban defending an Alabama squad that may not compare with his past ones.
Saban on offensive identity: "We've been averaging over 500 yards a game, and everybody's been complaining about the offense."
— Alex Martin Smith (@asmiff) September 26, 2015