NOTE (11/16): This article has been edited to account for a significant statistical oversight; the 4th quarter partially-blocked punt by North Texas. Article additions are in italics and preceded by "UPDATED," original opinions that have been altered are
lined through. Hat tip to Incipient_Senescence for bringing the error to the author's attention.
Since the 1930’s the University of Tennessee has been measuring themselves against seven keys to winning football as first summarized by General Robert Neyland. The Seven Maxim’s Scorecard is a quantitative and qualitative analysis of how, relative to that week’s opponent, the Vols performed against each of the seven directives. Grading is on a 4.0 scale, with a 4.0 being perfect, which is rare. In this analysis, it’s possible for Tennessee to have won without excelling on all fronts, but it is impossible to have performed well in all seven areas in a loss. Here goes:
1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. (2.0)
Playing disciplined football.
Tennessee lost the turnover battle again but only incurred two penalties. Generously scoring North Texas’ ill-fated fake punt as a miscue; in reality it was simply a calculated risk that was worth taking from the Mean Green perspective. UPDATED: But that's not enough to offset the partially-blocked punt the Mean Green got, even though it was late in the game and the outcome was decided. Dobbs had another potential INT dropped and Kamara had a fumble that could’ve just as easily been a turnover. Based on everything we’ve seen out of Mizzou and Vandy, the only way they’re scoring against Tennessee is if the Vols turn the ball over or otherwise give a short field. Securing the football needs to be an emphasis in practice this week.
2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE. (2.2)
Being aggressive and opportunistic.
Tennessee did not create any turnovers. They were able to sniff out, and stop, a fake punt in the 2nd quarter, but failed to score. As for "making breaks," the Vols were 3-for-3 on 4th down conversions, one of which led to Medley’s lone FG of the game.
3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam. (N/A)
Positive responses to bad circumstances, regardless of the situation.
This game had literally no breaks that went against Tennessee to which anyone could respond. The lone miscue in this game was a Dobbs interception in the redzone at the end of the 1st half. North Texas took a knee to get to halftime and that was that. UPDATED: Dobbs interception basically ended the first half, so no rating was applied to Tennessee's offensive and defensive response. The partially blocked punt, was met with a 3-and-out by the defense and the offense holding the ball for the final 3:47 of a game whose outcome had long been decided; a favorable response by both.
4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game. (3.2)
Minimizing opponent opportunity to strike quickly or make a comeback.
Tennessee was (basically) even on time of possession which is a positive result for an up-tempo offense. The Vols also dominated the number of plays run, and had a good showing in the 4-minute offense to mercifully end the game. Two sacks isn’t a lot to give up but one of them killed a drive and took Tennessee out of scoring position. UPDATED: The late-game blocked punt downgrades this maxim's score further still.
5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the WINNING EDGE. (3.5)
All about fundamentals; the little things. Many of them, not stat-friendly.
A workmanlike, if uninspiring, day from the Vols against an inferior opponent. Since the Florida debacle, the Tennessee defense has gone on a nice run of shutting down teams on 4th down.
6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made. (4.0)
Special teams held a special place in the General’s heart.
Daniel got back to early-season excellence UPDATED: with no touchbacks but special teams perfection was ruined by the late-game partial-block of Tennessee's last punt The cruel fate of special teams -- and, in fact, an underlying point of the Seven Maxims -- is that it only takes one mistake to ruin an otherwise-good day.
. Four punts, four inside the 20, no touchbacks. Punt Return stopped a fake. Kick Coverage unit was solid. Medley perfect. Kick Return was ready for the funky opening kickoff and never went back out onto the field. Which is still one more play than the FG Block unit got.
7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes. (2.5)
Coaching staff’s gameplan… and the players’ execution of it.
The Vols looked OK in this game. Not great; not horrible. Between the opponent, the noon kickoff, and the fact that North Texas posed very few sustained threats, it’s hard to criticize the coaching staff too much. Kudos for getting Dormady and the younger RBs some extended run. The more impressive performance was North Texas’ staff. They’re not a talented football team but, aside from a few dropped balls, the Mean Green played a largely mistake-free game and executed the slow-down gameplan to perfection. They just didn’t have enough horses in the stable.
Bottom Line Seven Maxims Scorecard Result:
2.8 UPDATED: 2.7
The Seven Maxims – and this Scorecard – do not get altered based on the opponent. There is no "grading on the curve." Tennessee was the superior football team in every phase. But everybody already knew that. The biggest positive to take away from this game is that nobody else got hurt.
UPDATED: It is interesting to note -- and, it stands to reason the General Neyland would agree with this assessment -- that a special teams miscue affected the scorecard on five of the seven maxims. Ironically, the blocked punt only resulted in one-tenth of a point overall downgrade because the offense and defense responded positively to the bad break, meaning that the 4th Maxim's score actually went up. Thanks again to Incipient_Senescence for pointing out the oversight.