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. (2.0)
Playing disciplined football.
It’s hard to win the turnover battle 4-0 and lose the game. But when the offense doesn’t do much with those turnovers, and the team can’t play with discipline, the door was left open for a Kentucky comeback. More than the absolute number of penalties, the situational timing – and the yards that got cancelled-out – were particularly damning for a team that is extremely limited on offense and thin on “D”.
2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE. (2.9)
Being aggressive and opportunistic.
The inability to convert turnovers into touchdowns… or even a field goal made all the difference.
3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam. (2.9)
Positive responses to bad circumstances, regardless of the situation.
Tennessee’s finest overall performance in Maxim 3 for the season. With the notable exception of Kentucky’s last touchdown, the offense actually responded to scores with their own score.
4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game. (2.0)
Minimizing opponent opportunity to strike quickly or make a comeback.
Tennessee had a good gameplan (or, at least, Kentucky was a good matchup for Tennessee). They dominated the number of plays run and the time of possession. But 7 sacks is too many for an offense that is so limited. At least 3 of those sacks are directly attributable to the young quarterback missing blitz-reads and not getting rid of the ball but, late in the game, the offensive line was getting beaten, too.
5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the WINNING EDGE. (1.0)
All about fundamentals; the little things. Many of them, not stat-friendly.
In addition to the 7 sacks, the 12 tackles for loss are a strong indication of a predictable offense that is not ready to compete at an SEC-level. On the other side of the ball, allowing the opponent to rack up 289 yards of rushing is a recipe for disaster.
6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made. (1.6)
Special teams held a special place in the General’s heart.
All anyone will remember about the special teams are the missed field goals. But with the exception of one great punt by Daniel inside the Kentucky 5, every unit on special teams was pretty bad today. And the never-before seen “universal unsportsmanlike conduct” penalty came on special teams. This ultimately led to the ejection of both Vickers and Gaulden.
7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes. (0.7)
Coaching staff’s gameplan… and the players’ execution of it.
The gameplan was not bad and some legitimately promising things showed up on offense; Tennessee was in this game until the end. But the offense’s redzone execution was ultimately the team’s undoing.
Bottom Line Seven Maxims Scorecard Result: 1.9
An offense that doesn’t score touchdowns in the redzone, combined with an undermanned and undisciplined defense and mediocre special teams cost Tennessee this game. There were some legitimately promising things on display against Kentucky but, then again, the Wildcats should NEVER be the standard against which Tennessee is measured.