Football has changed so much since the 1930s.
From the advent of the forward pass to the rise of gimmick defenses and blitz packages, players and coaches from that era of football would hardly recognize the game if they watched it today.
That's perhaps what makes General Robert R. Neyland's game maxims even more remarkable. They are still to this day the blueprint for winning football. Pretty much any UT fan worth his orange blood can tell you what the seven maxims are if not recite them word-for-word. At the very least, we can name most of them. But UT coaches past and present have embraced the maxims and even had players recite them in the locker rooms before games. All indications are that Butch Jones --who has referred to the maxims multiple times already -- will do the same.
They're as much a part of Vols lore as anything, etched in our history books and still a mantra for our present program. I love the maxims, for what they stand for and the fact that they're still relevant after all these years.
Here they are:
1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.
This is probably the most important one. Very rarely is a mistake-prone team a good team. Forcing turnovers, creating opportunities normally = wins. This is textbook.
2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE.
How many drives have the Vols had during this stretch of bad football that have finished in a mistake or proven ultimately unfruitful? How many times have we forced a break and not taken advantage of it? When your foot is on the throat, go for the kill. If you don't do it, then you normally lose.
3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam.
This is perhaps the biggest downfall of the Dooley era. His teams flat-out quit. There were so many instances where the Vols played well against good teams and were right in the mix for the win at halftime or just afterward. Then, something bad would happen, the wind would go out, and the blowout loss would commence. Those old UT teams would still fight. Remember Arkansas '98?
4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game.
The Vols have endured how many blocked kicks? How many sack-fumbles? How much pressure on the quarterback? Granted, Michael Palardy and Tyler Bray weren't exactly the sharpest tools in the shed or the most consistent players on the field, but they didn't always have a lot of help, either. That's why it's such a benefit that UT has a veteran offensive line this season.
5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the WINNING EDGE.
When the ball's on the ground, you've GOT to recover it. It's life and death when it comes to football. As far as the "cut and slice" part, UT simply doesn't have enough players with that quick-twitch body action while other SEC teams do. We're a step slower. And if I have to re-live all the arm tackles from the Sal Sunseri [and John Chavis, for that matter] eras, I'm going to scream.
6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.
Ah yes. When we think of the Vols, how often do we think of gaffes in the kicking game? For years under Phillip Fulmer and Lane Kiffin, it was coverage units. The first year under Derek Dooley, it was finding somebody -- ANYBODY -- who could field a punt. Though the coverage units got much better and Cordarrelle Patterson eased some of the concerns in the return game, the Vols haven't had a kicker worth a flip in a long time. So, yeah, this one still applies.
7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.
This goes along with what I said above. The next time UT plays a complete football game will be the first time since N.C. State and the first one besides that since perhaps the days that Erik Ainge quarterbacked the team. It's unfortunately been that long.
So, there you have it fair readers. The maxims STILL apply. Even after 80 years.
Like I said, these are the seven that endured, but check out this post from Joel about the "lost maxims" of General Neyland. They're pretty awesome, too. This man knew football. It would benefit the present day Vols to heed and practice his words.