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. (3.7)
Playing disciplined football.
In a lot of ways this week's game looked a lot like last week's game: couldn't stop them; couldn't be stopped. However, Maxim 1 was the exception: turnover-free football, relatively penalty-free, and no meaningful gaffes on special teams.
2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE. (2.9)
Being aggressive and opportunistic.
Tennessee lost the big play metric for the 2nd straight week. But +4 in turnovers including a pick-6 from (ssshh! don't call him a) DT, Jonathan Kongbo and a fumble through the end zone by Mizzou, washes away a lot of sins.
3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam. (2.4)
Positive responses to bad circumstances, regardless of the situation.
Time to talk about the elephant in the room: LSU's inability to beat an anemic Florida team at home was the ultimate bad break. But Tennessee, led by a 4-year starter playing his last home game, did not let Mizzou (or Florida or LSU) beat them this day. Also, a defense that was on the field for an eye-gouging 110 plays, somehow was strongest at the end of a game that was only a 5 point lead 10 seconds into the 4th quarter. Put on more steam, indeed.
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 spine and the Vols have responded by becoming a Big XII team: 63 points on 67 plays on offense to counter a defense that was on the field a staggering 110 plays.
5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the WINNING EDGE. (1.8)
All about fundamentals; the little things. Many of them, not stat-friendly.
Mizzou managed to become only the second FBS team to rush for over 400 yards in a game this season and lose. The other was Kentucky last week. Just a crazy, crazy stat.
6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made. (2.8)
Special teams held a special place in the General's heart.
During his halftime interview, Butch Jones looked Allie LaForce in the eye and said that no one had told him the outcome of the Florida-LSU game until she mentioned it. And I believe him. Because, bless his heart, in nearly 3 full years no one has told him to stop running Aaron Medley out to try FG's beyond 40 yards, either. Otherwise a good day from both Return and Coverage teams.
7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes. (3.1)
Coaching staff's gameplan... and the players' execution of it.
Good day for Maxim 7; 9.1 yards per play and a 100% TD percentage in the redzone. The Vols fought fire with fire and managed to not get burned.
Bottom Line Seven Maxims Scorecard Result: 2.7
A good performance on a dispiriting day. This group of seniors came to Tennessee when there were not a lot of on-field reasons to do so and the storybook ending should have closed by securing a trip to Atlanta. But the harsh reality of the SEC is quite different from a fairy-tale. Everyone knows that defense wins championships and any Vol fan who is being honest with themselves will probably admit that this Tennessee defense, as currently constructed, is not championship material. The fantastic goal line stand made by Florida's defense underscored this; ...and most-likely spared Tennessee some humiliation in the SEC Championship Game, as well.