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. Craps Seven! Clear the Line!
1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. (0.0)
Playing disciplined football.
Seven turnovers. Nothing else matters. The fact that Tennessee had a chance for it to not matter is a testament to this team's belief and resolve. But if you want to stop reading, feel free. Because nothing else matters. There was a time in the Butch Jones regime where 12 penalties would be a bad MONTH for Tennessee. But when you're playing as many freshman and 3rd teamers as the Vols were at times its hard to get too upset; especially since fewer penalties wouldn't have mattered. Seven turnovers.
2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE. (1.3)
Being aggressive and opportunistic.
Say what you will, Tennessee's offense technically did make A LOT of breaks in the game. Many of them were bad breaks, but that's not exactly what Maxim 2 has in mind. When the narrative of how a team with seven turnovers(!) was able to even get the game into overtime with a chance to win, there will be lots of (appropriate) discussion about "will to win" and "no quit." But, as we've learned over and over this year, the only other metric besides turnovers that accurately predicts victory is Big Plays. Team 120 continues to make ‘em in bunches. Still, seven turnovers!
3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam. (2.3)
Positive responses to bad circumstances, regardless of the situation.
All Turnovers edition. If one can look past the seven (7!) turnovers - and you really shouldn't look past that because nothing else matters - one really has to admire the "no-quit" resiliency of this team. It would really be beautiful if it wasn't borne from an epidemic of slow starts and self-inflicted wounds.
4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game. (2.0)
Minimizing opponent opportunity to strike quickly or make a comeback.
None of this matters. But when they weren't treating the football like it had cooties, the offense had a really impressive showing. Consider the yards gained and time of possession to be the really delicious, freshly-baked, bread that the Vols chose to use for their turd sandwich. On second thought, the sacks and hurries DO matter. The two INT's were most likely influenced by a relative lack of comfort in the pocket. Seven turnovers.
5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the WINNING EDGE. (1.3)
All about fundamentals; the little things. Many of them, not stat-friendly.
The little things don't really matter when you have seven turnovers. But if they did, giving up 353 yards of rushing, 4 sacks, 5 hurries, 6 tackles for loss, and an astounding 10 passes broken up (I believe the stat keepers at A&M are being charitable... more than a couple of those should just be called "drops") would be damning. But talking about these stats are like talking about the placement of deck chairs on the Titanic. Seven turnovers.
6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made. (1.4)
Special teams held a special place in the General's heart.
Special teams did, in fact, matter because they contributed 2 of the fumbles including onw turnover that led to 7 points. Instead of "pressing the kicking game" the Kicking Game appears to be pressing. The pride of Team 119 has been decidedly average for several weeks; bailed out by boneheaded opponent miscues and timely spurts - rather than consistent excellence. A&M's missed field goal that sent the game into overtime not withstanding, the Aggies' special teams were clearly superior in kick and punt coverage. Tennessee lost the field position battle for the first time in a long-long time.
7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes. (1.1)
Coaching staff's gameplan... and the players' execution of it.
Not that it mattered (seven turnovers), but kudos to the coaching staff for calling a winning gameplan on both sides of the ball. Kudos to the team for fighting threw a slew of missing stars and injuries on both sides of the ball in a tough road environment. In a weird way, this was the closest Team 120 has come to 60 minutes of competing. But it was also a "greatest hits" of early-season miscues. An inability to stop the run a la App State, the INT's of Virginia Tech, the penalty tsunami of Ohio, the dropped passes of Florida, and the lost fumbles of Georgia, all in a single game. The yards per play (close, but in the Aggies favor), starting field position (kick and punt teams got soundly outplayed and -- oh yeah, turnovers!), and TD% in Redzone (misleading because the turnovers committed while carrying the ball into the redzone don't count) were all unfavorable. But let's not kid ourselves: seven turnovers.
Bottom Line Seven Maxims Scorecard Result: 1.3
Seven turnovers. Nothing else matters. The Fumbling Problem has now reached a six-game epidemic. There should be widespread student sightings of running backs and wide receivers carrying footballs to class and video of Butch Jones reminding players to "just fall on the damn ball" when fumbles do occur coming out of Knoxville in the coming days. But how in the hell did this game get into double-OT? One has to admire Team 120's competitive spirit; their resolve. But even that cannot overcome (say it with me)...