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.
1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. (1.1)
Playing disciplined football.
Not today, it didn't. Two turnovers on special teams, one INT on a throw no four-year starter should make. But the penalties... three different KY drives got extended by 15 yard penalties and the Wildcats scored on all 3 drives. Tack on a false start that negated an opportunity to convert a 4th-and-inches. Tough day for Maxim 1.
2.Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE. (1.8)
Being aggressive and opportunistic.
Tennessee also lost the big play metric. At the beginning of the season we learned that, regardless of any other stats, if a team loses on both turnovers and "big plays," that team will lose 98.5% of the time*. Welcome to the 1.5%.
*Source: Bill Connelly; SB Nation
3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam. (2.7)
Positive responses to bad circumstances, regardless of the situation.
You wanna get (Kentucky)? Here's how you get ‘em. He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue! That's the (Tennessee) way, and that's how you get (Kentucky)!
-- Jim Malone (Sean Connery); The Untouchables
Team 120's offense has not done very well with Maxim 3, but that was not the case against Kentucky. Joshua Dobbs and company responded to almost every Kentucky TD with a TD and every Kentucky FG with... a Touchdown. It was great to see... and absolutely necessary because, statistically, Kentucky was equal, or superior, to Tennessee almost (almost) everywhere else.
4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game. (2.3)
Minimizing opponent opportunity to strike quickly or make a comeback.
Injuries and disciplinary issues have devastated Tennessee's defensive interior and the Vols have responded by becoming a Big XII team: 49 points on 59 plays in only 24:39 of possession.
5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the WINNING EDGE. (2.5)
All about fundamentals; the little things. Many of them, not stat-friendly.
We've already discussed the 98.5% chance to win based on turnovers and big plays. But the SEC Network also gave us this fun fact: coming in to the day, D1-A teams (still refuse to call them "FBS;" sorry #notsorry) who rushed for over 400 yards in a game were a perfect 30-0. Kentucky rushed for 443 and lost by double-digits. A third-tier bowl game and basketball season is probably enough of a salve for Wildcat fans. I shudder to think about the amount of meds Tennessee's fanbase would need if the tables were turned.
6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made. (3.2)
Special teams held a special place in the General's heart.
The Special Teams units did not cover themselves in glory against Kentucky. Josh Smith, the "less dynamic, reliable option" for punt returns had a fumble, the "hands" team failed to recover the Wildcats' first on-sides kick, there was a false start on an extra point, and Butch Jones had to take a timeout while defending a 2-point conversion (one of two timeouts taken by the same unit in the second half) because, apparently the team is so far down the depth chart at defensive tackle, the Vols are playing kids who do not know that they are now defensive tackles. On the plus side, Trevor Daniel had a great game, averaging a 49.5 yard net with zero touchbacks. Also, Medley had a good day on kickoffs and Marquill Osborne had a nice, 22-yard return on a pooch kickoff.
7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes. (2.9)
Coaching staff's gameplan... and the players' execution of it.
Beyond Maxim 3, the game was won through the Seventh Maxim. 10.2 yards per play is Big XII-esque (or 80's era WAC-esque, if you're old enough). But the game was won in the Red Zone: Tennessee scored touchdowns, Kentucky (mostly) kicked field goals and had a back-breaking turnover. And that's how a team turns fewer big plays, more overall turnovers, and giving up over 400 yards of rushing into a double-digit win.
Bottom Line Seven Maxims Scorecard Result: 2.3
A comfortable, albeit confounding, win for the Vols. On to Mizzou.