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Seven Maxims Scorecard: Vanderbilt

Measuring the Vols' performace against General Neyland's timeless standards: The Seven Maxims of Football.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Fun fact (since not many other aspects of this analysis are going to be fun): General Robert Neyland was originally hired as Tennessee's head coach for the express purpose of beating Vanderbilt. Before Neyland, Tennessee hired and fired 10 coaches in 25 seasons; their principal failing being the inability to field teams who could beat Vanderbilt. Source: UT Sports Website


1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. (0.8)

Playing disciplined football.


In an evenly-matched game between over-matched defenses, the extra turnover and the missed FG -€” two scoreless possessions -€” were the beginning of the end of the last, best hope to characterize this as a successful season of progress.

2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE. (1.3)

Being aggressive and opportunistic.


In addition to the turnovers, the Vols lost the "Big Play" metric. Regular readers of the 7MS know that spells doom 98 times out of 100. Tennessee beat the percentages once this season (Kentucky) but couldn't do it twice.

3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam.
Positive responses to bad circumstances, regardless of the situation.


Tennessee spent the entire second half waiting for the Commodores to turn into "same old Vandy" only to themselves morph in to the perennial SEC laughingstock.

4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game. (0.8)
Minimizing opponent opportunity to strike quickly or make a comeback.


Tennessee's turn as a middle-of-the-pack Big XII team continues. The defense couldn't get off the field and the offense couldn't match touchdowns with touchdowns.

5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the WINNING EDGE. (2.0)
All about fundamentals; the little things. Many of them, not stat-friendly.


The hurries and tackles for loss are a bit misleading here. Bereft of defensive tackles and short on linebackers, the defense was almost entirely dependent on stunts and blitzes. In other words, gambling. And for every gamble won, there were at least another one lost as Vanderbilt piled up the big plays through the air early and on the ground late.

6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made. (2.2)
Special teams held a special place in the General's heart.


Trevor Daniel continues a stellar season of punting for both distance and net. Tyler Byrd had one really good kick return (but was contained the rest of the night). Tough night for Medley. Beyond the obvious missed FG, only 2 of 7 touchbacks on kickoffs.

7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes. (1.2)
Coaching staff's gameplan... and the players' execution of it.


The opponent's yards-per-play statistic is disgusting but Vol fans are have probably become desensitized to it as it is now commonplace. Vanderbilt was the 5th team to average at least 7 yards per play since the Texas A&M game. The back-breaker was red zone efficiency. Team 120 has been great at scoring TDs. But there were too many FG's (made, or otherwise) to properly support a defense that made an anemic Vanderbilt offense look like a vintage Steve Spurrier "Fun-n-Gun" juggernaut.

Bottom Line Seven Maxims Scorecard Result: 1.2

Year four of the Butch Jones era ends with the program having taken an undeniable step backward. A turnover-prone team without a (healthy) defensive spine could not capitalize when the overall ...parity? ...medicocrity? of the SEC conspired to offer the Vols a chance at a prestigious bowl. But since the start of overtime versus Texas A&M, Team 120 has been more Liberty Bowl, than Sugar Bowl so the Vanderbilt result -€” while bitterly disappointing -€” is certainly not surprising.