Tennessee vs Oregon by the Seven Game Maxims
Continuing our evaluation of each Vol game, and Tennessee’s performance, by General Robert Neyland’s Seven Game Maxims, let’s look at Saturday’s Oregon-Tennessee tilt.
Neyland developed these metrics 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 – Oregon game on September 12, 2010, with an emphasis on the Vols’ performance, will help explain the game’s outcome and illuminate the overall performance of Tennessee.
No. 1-MISTAKES: Tennessee has nobody to blame but themselves for the developments late in the first half which changed the momentum of the game. Tennessee punter Chad Cunningham shanked a punt to the right, out of bounds, giving the Ducks decent field position. On a second down play, Duck TE David Paulson couldn’t hang on to a pass, but Vol corner back Eric Gordon led his pursuit with his helmet on the defenseless Duck TE who was on the ground, and was flagged for 15 yards. First Down Ducks. Two plays later, a soft floating pass from Darron Thomas hit Paulson over the middle for touchdown to even the score at 13. A completely dominating performance by the Vols for most of the first half was negated by a bad punt and a bonehead defensive play. The ESPN2 commentators were saying how they were impressed that the young Vol team were not making critical mistakes. I have no idea what game they were watching. It was the two mistakes that created opportunity for Oregon to tie the game going into the locker room at the half. Then in the second half, Simms’ pass out to the right flank, without setting his feet to get the proper velocity on the ball (he was under heavy pressure), was a critical error in judgment – Cliff Harris pick-sixed it for 76 yards. The game was all but over. Grade: C-
No.2-BREAKS: With the crowd behind the Big Orange after an opening drive ending in a field goal, Art Evans stripped Kenjon Barner of the ball on the kickoff. Tennessee turned the turnover into a score, but settled for a field goal instead of a touchdown, which would have really torqued up the crowd even further. But it was Oregon who made the most of the breaks they created. Cliff Harris’ pic-six INT in the third quarter was created not only be Simms’ mistake but Harris’ anticipation. Kenjon Barner’s punt return for a TD later was instant capitalization of a breakdown of kick coverage. Grade: C
No.3-DON’T LET UP: It was Oregon for who the breaks and the game were going against in the early going. They recovered and didn’t let their early ineffectiveness kill them. So, this Maxim in its literal sense doesn’t apply to Tennessee. No Grade
No.4-PROTECTIONS: Tennessee’s offensive line protection of Simms and the backfield began breaking down in the 3rd Quarter. The Vols, holding a 13-3 lead over the Number 7 ranked team in the country in the second half, had the game in their hands. They let control slip away late in the second half as mentioned above, and gave it up for good in the third quarter. Grade: D
No.5-THE WINNING EDGE: The Vols established a winning edge early, and it lasted into the second quarter, especially when they answered a Duck FG with a touchdown to make it 13-3. The Vols promptly lost that edge by letting Oregon tie the game, helped by two critical Vol errors, explained earlier. In the second half, that winning edge was a faint memory. Grade: C-
No.6-PRESS THE KICKING GAME: Tennessee did very little when receiving kickoffs or punts. On the other side, the Vols allowed an embarrassing Duck punt return for a touchdown, but by that point the game was pretty much out of reach because of the momentum the Ducks had created. Grade: C-
No.7-CARRY THE FIGHT: Right out of the chute, the Vols and their loud fans popped the Ducks right in the mouth and set the visitors back on their heels. After Oregon tied the game late in the second quarter, we “didn’t have a very good look in our eye” according to Coach Dooley. After the pick-six to put the Ducks up by 14 in the second half, “we quit” said the Coach. According to Josh Ward of WMNL, Dooley said he’ll look for one person on film who played well after Simms’ pick-six. Said he doubts he’ll find one. Called it “epidemic”. Grade: D
Admittedly, playing seventh-ranked Oregon was a difficult assignment for a thin, young squad. Losing the game was no disgrace. Allowing Oregon to score the final 45 points of the game was.