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. (3.0)
Playing disciplined football.
Team 120 continues to be, statistically, incredibly lucky. Both teams fumbled once, Tennessee recovered both. The rampant penalty issues that have plagued the Vols through the first 3 games were nowhere to be found, while Florida was as undisciplined as ever. As for special teams miscues... Florida return man Antonio Callaway owes an apology to every football coach he has ever had - Pop Warner, AAU, Middle School, High School, and College. His two fair catches inside the five (one of them fumbled!) was a cardinal violation of one of the oldest and simplest instructions in football: put your feet on the 10 yard line and do not take a step backwards for any reason! Amazingly, Tennessee got zero points out of those two mistakes, but the field position absolutely influenced the Gators' play calling.
2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE. (2.2)
Being aggressive and opportunistic.
Tennessee failed to score off the breaks but the fact that Butch Jones played for, and made those breaks in the first place represents growth for the coach and a welcome departure from last year. It didn't work in the first half, but the aggressiveness, the confidence, paid off in the second half with interest.
3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam. (2.8)
Positive responses to bad circumstances, regardless of the situation.
Plenty of breaks went against the Vols early, and the response - particularly by the offense - was not great. But the coaching staff stuck to the game plan through the uncharacteristic drops on offense, made some personnel adjustments on defense, kept relying on the kicking game to pin Florida back, and mounted a second-half comeback for the ages.
4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game. (3.0)
Minimizing opponent opportunity to strike quickly or make a comeback.
Tennessee dominated field position and the much-maligned offensive line had a fantastic day against one of the most formidable defenses in the nation. Welcome back Chance Hall! For a game where the lead was not gained until early in the 4th quarter, the game was salted away fairly quickly.
5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the WINNING EDGE. (3.4)
All about fundamentals; the little things. Many of them, not stat-friendly.
The defense's early game struggles boiled down to Justin Martin having difficulty stepping in to Cam Sutton's sizable shoes. In the second half, Tennessee moved to Baylen Buchanan over Martin, gave a little more safety help over the top, and got considerably more pressure from their front seven. Special callouts to Derek Barnett for his pressure off the edge, and to both Shy Tuttle and Danny O'Brien for their control of the line of scrimmage and collapse of the pocket.
6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made. (3.3)
Special teams held a special place in the General's heart.
When everything else was going wrong, Tennessee's special teams were winning field position. Berry and Kamara made Florida pay for kicking to them, Medley limited the Gators' opportunities to return the favor, and Daniel's punts evidently hypnotized Antonio Callaway into thinking he was always catching the ball on the 10 yard line. There weren't many awe-inspiring plays - no blocked kicks, no returns for touchdown... but the turnaround was enabled, in part, by the tremendous field position provided by every phase of the special teams.
7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes. (3.0)
Coaching staff's gameplan... and the players' execution of it.
Tennessee fans continue to wait for Team 120 to play a full 60 minutes. But the early mistakes today were ones of a banged up defense trying to replace three of its four best players and an offense that was (repeatedly) dropping passes they normally catch. The gameplan was spot-on and Butch Jones and staff deserve credit for sticking with it when 0-for-12 seemed all but certain.
Bottom Line Seven Maxims Scorecard Result: 2.9
The narrative of this game will be Tennessee's tremendous second-half comeback, or "a Tale of Two Halves." But when one digs down, the turnaround was, in fact, even more incredible: almost exactly half-way through the 3rd quarter, the score was still 21-3. With 8:27 left to go in the 4th quarter, the Vols were up 38-21 and the game was effectively over. Thirty-five unanswered points in 14 game minutes; a breathtaking turnaround. The streak is over and once again all things are possible.