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. (3.4)
Playing disciplined football.
No turnovers. Four penalties. No "shoulda been" or "almost" INT’s from Dobbs. One ball put on the ground that Tennessee was fortunate to recover. This was the type of execution Vol fans had grown accustomed to seeing from Butch Jones teams. Based on everything we’ve seen out of Mizzou this season this was probably the only way the Tigers were beating Tennessee. Mission accomplished.
2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE. (2.9)
Being aggressive and opportunistic.
Tennessee created two turnovers and turned that into two FG attempts; including Medley’s lone miss. A bit of a tough break for Tennessee’s defense going 0-2 on 4th downs… they were generally excellent on the day and were a few inches away from a truly great goal-line stand.
3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam. (2.0)
Positive responses to bad circumstances, regardless of the situation.
The only event that Mizzou had to remotely qualify as a break was their lone score. The offense followed with a disappointing 3-and-out. But the defense – possibly still mad from losing their shutout just moments before – got the ball back after only 4 plays.
4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game. (3.9)
Minimizing opponent opportunity to strike quickly or make a comeback.
The finest performance against the Fourth Maxim so far this season. No special teams issues. No sacks (and only 2 hurries). And holy cow, the plays run and time of possession! Tack on a back-breaking TD at the end of a long drive to close out the 1st half, and running out all but the last minute of the 2nd half (i.e. protect our and our ballgame).
5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the WINNING EDGE. (2.6)
All about fundamentals; the little things. Many of them, not stat-friendly.
The rushing statistics and first downs stand out here. Jalen Hurd looked like the best player on the field. But Alvin Kamara looked great, too. Considering the quality of Mizzou’s excellent front-7, that means that Tennessee’s OL got the job done. The tackles for loss is, evidently, the price Butch Jones is willing to pay for running this offense… and its hard to argue with the logic during a dominating performance. The QB Hurries (and to a lesser degree, Sacks) stat leads one to question how the metric is calculated. Mizzou’s QB looked comfortable in the pocket for exactly one scoring drive. As for the rest of the game, he was certainly rushing his throws, whether or not he was technically being "hurried."
6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made. (2.4)
Special teams held a special place in the General’s heart.
Not the greatest day for Tennessee’s special teams. This had more to do with an excellent all-around performance from Mizzou than anything Tennessee did wrong. The Tigers got pressure on Daniel’s punts twice, forcing the punter to rush a bit. This meant 2 punts that we’ve seen continuously downed inside the 10 yard line this season became touchbacks. Mizzou’s punter successfully used hang time and good angles to eliminate Sutton’s return opportunities. Berry’s second return – following the Tigers’ only score – successfully flipped the field, snuffing out a potential momentum shift before it had a chance to take hold. Finally Medley went 4-5 on a night when a proud Mizzou defense did their very best to keep Tennessee out of the end zone.
Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes. (3.3)
Coaching staff’s gameplan… and the players’ execution of it.
Given the state of Mizzou’s offense, the only way Tennessee was losing this game was if they beat themselves. The gameplan was appropriately conservative and well-executed.
Bottom Line Seven Maxims Scorecard Result: 2.9
The TV gods at ESPN really wanted this game to be all about Gary Pinkel*. Butch Jones was having none of it.
*Real Bottom Line: Pinkel managed to prove ~99.9% of all SEC fans wrong by winning the SEC East in two out of Mizzou’s first three years in the conference (EDIT: Chris forgot about Missouri's 2012 season). Between that, the ability to keep Michael Sam’s secret until the player was ready to come out, the way he handled the team’s support of this season’s campus uprisings, and the genuine affection he appeared to show each of his seniors before their last game, Gary Pinkel is someone Mizzou fans should feel really good about. Godspeed to him in his battle against cancer; Lymphoma is no joke. Here’s wishing him a full recovery and a long and happy retirement.