Tennessee vs UT Martin by the Seven Game Maxims
Today, we’ll start a new feature of Vols in the Fall: evaluating each Vol game, and Tennessee’s performance, by one of the most famous metrics in all of sports.
One of the cherished traditions of Tennessee football, and one of the gifts that General Robert Neyland gave to the game of football itself, is the Seven Game Maxims. Neyland developed these as a teaching tool for his Vol teams. In the 1930s, Tennessee players began reciting them in the locker room before each game, just as they do today. Those seven maxims, stated below, are what Neyland thought it took to win a football game.1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. 2. Play for and make the breaks, and when one comes your way – SCORE! 3. If at first the breaks or the game go against you, don’t let up… put on more steam. 4. Protect our kickers, our quarterback, our lead, and our ballgame. 5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle… for this is “the winning edge”. 6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made. 7. Carry the fight to your opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.
An evaluation of the Tennessee – UT Martin game on September 4, 2010, with an emphasis on the Vols’ performance, will help explain the game’s outcome and illuminate the overall performance of Tennessee’s game.
No. 1-MISTAKES: Tennessee made unfortunate mistakes in the first half: (1) the game’s first drive was left underwhelming by James Stone’s illegal procedure at the goal line on 3rd down, getting us 3 instead of 7 likely points; (2) Gerald Jones muffed a UTM punt, giving possession back to UT Martin; (3) an illegal formation call in Skyhawk territory led to a field goal instead of perhaps more; and (4) illegal procedure and delay of game penalties killed drives and momentum. But UT Martin made their share of mistakes early as well: (1) a roughing the kicker call led to UT retaining possession and scoring a TD; (2) intentional grounding backed up the Skyhawks needlessly. In the second half, UT Martin really killed any chance of them getting back in the game (remember, Ole Miss was ahead of Jacksonville State 31-10 at the half but lost the game): (1) down 27-0 early in the third quarter, the Skyhawks had a nice gain on a reverse but a downfield holding call brought it back, immediately followed by Austin Johnson’s interception; and (2) a fumbled kickoff backed themselves up against the goal line, preceding a UT safety on the first play from scrimmage. In the end, UT Martin’s mistakes killed any chance that the could have (but really didn’t) have. Tennessee’s unforced errors and the fumbled punt ended up doing no harm, which isn’t going to be the case in the coming weeks against quality opposition. Let’s hope this was just early season jitters for the Vols.
No.2-BREAKS: This is where the Vols excelled on Saturday. Tennessee capitalized on a roughing the kicker call to keep possession and score right away on a long TD run; immediately scored a TD on a 42 yard pass after Austin Johnson intercepted a Skyhawk pass; made a safety immediately after UT Martin fumbled a kickoff near the goal line; and had a pick-six when Prentiss Wagner intercepted a pass and rambled 53 yards into the checkerboard.
No.3-DON’T LET UP: Tennessee didn’t let the rash of early mistakes (see No. 1 above) get them down. This was a noticeable improvement over two seasons ago. The team looked motivated. They also performed without the braggadocio that seemed to infect past teams that produced needless penalties for late hits and unsportsmanlike conduct. The Vols performance by this metric is a credit to the Dooley staff.
No.4-PROTECTIONS: This was Tennessee’s game from the end of the first quarter and the Vols never gave UT Martin a sniff of a chance from then on. The only protection problem was on one punt, but that was a roughing the kicker call against the Skyhawks. Simms was given adequate pass protection to allow him to make good decisions.
No.5-THE WINNING EDGE: Great blocking and overall transition play on Wagner’s pick six. Tennessee’s defense was active and continually made good penetrations into the UT Martin backfield. Great energy all around by the Vols didn’t allow the Skyhawks any breathing room.
No.6-PRESS THE KICKING GAME: Tennessee exerted good, aggressive kicking coverage the entire game, smothering any chances for UT Martin to gain good field position. Obviously, this was in the their heads when the Skyhawk return man fumbled a kickoff near the goal line.
No.7-CARRY THE FIGHT: As stated above for No.5, the Vols had a great energy level throughout the game.
Great defensive energy and activity was a hallmark of the Vols on Saturday. That, and making the most out of the breaks that came their way, allowed the Big Orange to win in a big way. The early mistakes – mostly mental errors – cast a bit of a dark shadow on an otherwise fine performance. Next week, it will take, at the very least, the same level of energy and measure of opportunism – with the addition of no mistakes – to give us a chance at a victory against the high-octane Oregon Ducks.