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. (1.3)
Playing disciplined football.
The team that made the fewest mistakes most certainly did not win this game. Although South Carolina’s special team’s miscue (missed FG) and lone turnover (to end the game) proved particularly costly. Dobbs realistically could’ve had a couple more turnovers. The penalties were also quite maddening; 3 personal fouls, including Brian Randolph getting ejected (correctly, for targeting a defenseless player). His ejection was followed immediately by SC starting to move the ball after doing nothing up to that point.
Not included in the stats (because they’re hard to source) but certainly in the category of "mistakes" would be dropped balls. Good grief! Listen, Josh Dobbs struggles with accuracy and probably should’ve had another 2 INTs. But he also should’ve had another 125 yards of passing and another TD if WRs had simply caught the balls that hit them in the hands.
2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE. (1.0)
Being aggressive and opportunistic.
South Carolina was able to hang around and get back in this game because Tennessee got sloppy with the football; eventually this led to a TD for the Gamecocks that served notice that the Vols would be in a full, four quarter ball game.
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 defense actually had a pretty good performance on this front but offensive turnovers – particularly in the redzone – are a game of Russian roulette… it’s just a matter of time. After two successful shutouts by the defense, the 3rd time South Carolina had an answer and it was officially "game on."
4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game. (2.1)
Minimizing opponent opportunity to strike quickly or make a comeback.
Tennessee lost both the time of possession and number of plays statistics. Tack on the fact that they were unable to run the ball in the second half and the offense was putting an under-manned defense at-risk. Fortunately, for Tennessee fans, the defense was largely up to the task allowing only 1 score off 3 Vol turnovers and salting away the game by causing SC’s lone turnover in the final 2-minutes of the game.
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.
If you had told a Tennessee fan that South Carolina would beat out Tennessee in the rushing category mid-way through the 1st Quarter, they’d have said you’re crazy. The 4th-down stop in the first half turned out to be even bigger than it appeared at the time. Bottom line, the Defense consistently did the "little things" to win. As for the offense… protect the football and get the penalties back in check.
6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made. (3.8)
Special teams held a special place in the General’s heart.
This is consistently #Team119’s highest-performing maxim. Daniel had a good, but not great game. SC did a decent job of containing Berry on kickoffs but a 24.5 yard average is nothing to take for granted. Sutton did a nice job with punt returns including a 2nd half return to midfield that re-captured momentum for an offense that had gone stagnant.
SC missed a field goal that looked more like a miscue than something the Vols’ unit caused. Finally Medley was quietly perfect again tonight, including a 44 yarder. After seeing the ‘Dores’ performance against Florida, it’s safe to say we’ll need him for both Mizzou and Vandy.
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.
Tennessee blew their 4th double-digit lead of the season. This game looked very Oklahoma-y during the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Fortunately , the Gamecocks are not as good as the Sooners. However, unlike the Oklahoma game, the offensive staff stayed aggressive (but still did not adjust well to South Carolina’s defensive tweaks. The defense stayed aggressive throughout and was ultimately able to make SC pay. Bottom line: it’s clear that the coaching staff and the team have learned from their early-season lessons. It’s also clear that they’ve got more to learn.
Bottom Line Seven Maxims Scorecard Result: 2.2
Defense and special teams overcome a loose performance by the offense earning a victory that was closer than it should have been. Kudos to a South Carolina team and staff who chose to fight with an interim coach, on the road, down by two TDs early. If Tennessee can clean up their performance in the 1st and 2nd maxim, maintain excellence in the 6th, and continue to evolve within the 7th, a good season can still be had.