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.
1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. (0.7)
Playing disciplined football.
The fans are going to (correctly) criticize Butch Jones and the entire staff for the questionable formations and self-destructive play calls, but (amazingly) they called a good enough game to win. Three interceptions – including one in the end zone and another for a pick-six – and three missed FGs by two different kickers was the difference in this game.
2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE. (2.8)
Being aggressive and opportunistic.
Tennessee and Florida traded equally back-breaking turnovers, but despite Dormady’s pick-six, the Vols actually had more points off turnovers than the Gators. Tennessee also nearly doubled up Florida’s big plays, the single most accurate predictor of victory. Still, a staggering number of those big plays came in the fourth quarter when Tennessee was down double-digits and didn’t have any other alternatives.
3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam. (3.1)
Positive responses to bad circumstances, regardless of the situation.
Tennessee’s defense deserved better. And they didn’t deserve to be the goat on every Sportscenter replay. For all the bad offense, for all the disappointing special teams, for all the terrible play calling and game management, the defense took everything that was thrown at them and responded perfectly. Until the last play. That Tennessee was still fighting to win this game until the very last play is one of the few positives to come out of this horrible loss. And down by double-digits in the fourth, in the steamy Florida Swamp, it was John Kelly and Tennessee, not the Gators, who were “putting on more steam.”
4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game. (2.0)
Minimizing opponent opportunity to strike quickly or make a comeback.
Dormady got hit too much, but that was bound to happen against a stout Gator defense. One has to wonder if it was the driving factor for some of the mind-boggling play calling. The conservatism meant a FG to tie the game, rather than TD to win it. And the defense… the defense deserved better than that horribly-aligned last play.
5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the WINNING EDGE. (1.7)
All about fundamentals; the little things. Many of them, not stat-friendly.
Tennessee ran the ball better, had more first downs and were the less-tired of the two teams at the end of the game. The hurries are a credit to Florida’s defense. The tackles for loss and pass break-ups have more to do with Tennessee’s play calling, and quarterback execution than anything else.
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.
An uncharacteristically bad day for special teams. Three missed FGs, a kickoff out of bounds. A shanked punt. For all the terrible play calls, for all the questionable passes, if the kicking game has their “normal” night, Tennessee wins this game. Calloway needs to have the shackles taken off. He had one really good punt return, but called for a fair catch on two other occasions with plenty of yards to be had.
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 Vols lost the yards per play stat on the last play of the game and the field position metric based largely on Dormady’s pick-6. But beyond the off-day for Special Teams, the timid play calling in the Red Zone was this team’s undoing. And yet… the fight was there. The team didn’t hang their heads down double-digits in the fourth quarter. The defense made heroic play after heroic play (until the last play). John Kelly put the entire team and staff on his back. Even with the completely predictable Dormady mistakes (he’s been begging for interceptions all season long), if the Special Teams had turned in an average performance, Tennessee wins this game without a problem. Can that really be blamed on the coach?
Bottom Line Seven Maxims Scorecard Result: 1.8
Of course it can! The defense deserved better. John Kelly deserved better. Watching Butch Jones and Jim McElwain try and out-coach each other is the closest thing most of us will ever experience to watching two men playing Russian Roulette. Ron Zook was a better head coach than Jim McElwain. Will Muschamp might be, too. And yet his Florida teams are a two-time SEC East champion based largely on the even more egregious incompetence and disarray of every other program in the SEC East. Chief among these are the Butch Jones era Vols. The stubbornness, the hubris, the lack of common-sense formation and personnel decisions (never mind play calling) based on common sense down and distance situations (e.g. taking a snap from the pistol formation on first and goal at the one yard line, not having the safeties deep when a Hail Mary is the only play that will beat you) will prevent this team from winning championships, just as it has for the past three years.