Monday, September 10, 2007

Neyland's Game Maxims Evaluation - Southern Miss

Every week I'll be looking at every one of Neyland's 7 game maxims and dissecting the game to see how well our Vols did in achieving those goals. The win over Southern Miss was so necessary, and if our team all around plays like against Florida like we did in the 2nd half against USM, we'll upset Florida in the Swamp.

1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.
This maxim is a bit misleading. Does the General mean turnovers? I don't think so. I think he means mistakes all the way down to man on man blocking, or missing a cut as a running back. For the most part, though, this can be determined by looking at penalties and turnovers, and any other glaring mistakes. Tennessee had 2 late 4th quarter fumbles (Crompton and Creer) in a game where the outcome was not in doubt. Southern Miss had 3 turnovers, plus two other fumbles they recovered. Tennessee had 6 penalties to USM's 5. Pretty clear that Tennessee made less mistakes. CHECK

2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE.
Tennessee scored 10 points off two Southern Miss fumbles, and they were when the game was close. It was 20-16 when Tennessee recovered a Southern Miss fumble and took it to the house on the ensuing drive. Tennessee also scored a safety after a big blitz and hit by McKenzie. CHECK

3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam.

This is probably the maxim that Tennessee achieved the most. Southern Miss was giving us fits in the first half. Big plays, mobile QB, screens that went for 15 yards. Southern Miss was leading 16-10 late in the 2nd quarter, and were down only 17-16 at half. Then the coaches, players, and fans revved it up. It was a different team in the 2nd half, as evidenced by the 2nd half score of 22-3, and holding USM to 100 yards in the 2nd half. CHECK

4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game.
Our kickers were protected, Ainge took a few hits early, but none were big, none were sacks, and he had a clean jersey in the 2nd half. Once we took the lead in the 2nd quarter, it was for good, and the 2nd half was dominating. We played our ball game, turning to a power running game with Arian Foster in the 2nd half. Lennon Creer then sped around tired defenders to ice the game. CHECK

5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the WINNING EDGE.
Our oskie wasn't good, as evidenced by Rico McCoy's ridiculous attempt at THE PLAY at the end of the 2nd half. I know our coaches don't teach that, as you could tell by Fulmer's eating of McCoy's soul, that started with "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING?!" We didn't cover well, we didn't tackle all that well in the 1st half, but it was good in the 2nd. We blocked well, we did some gang tackling. This one is tough. For me, one McCoy play stands out more than his 2 big hits. In the 1st half, Fletcher took a screen out of the backfield and McCoy pursued. Fletcher juked him and McCoy slid on all fours without touching Fletcher, so, although it's close... FAIL

6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.
Another tough one. Daniel Lincoln was 3/3, with a long of 47, which is very encouraging. The punt game was good, with Cunningham putting it inside the 20, even when he didn't have the length we're used to. However, kickoffs were continually short, and our coverage was awful. Southern Miss started their drives 7 of 13 times past the 30 yard line. We did recover a fumble on one of their kickoffs, so this is so hard to call. We failed in only one aspect of the kicking game. CHECK

7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.

I feel this maxim is hard to interpret. Does the General want us to leave our starters in for blowout 4th quarters? Does he mean in close games, never ever give up for a second? I truly don't know. I believe he means, regardless of who is in the game, play hard, fight hard, and win the battles. Did we do that? We scored 10 points in the 4th quarter. On Crompton's fumble, it was a pass play with less than 5:30 left in the game. Creer ran hard with GREAT blocking until the end of the game. We gave Southern Miss nothing in the 2nd half. CHECK

I truly enjoyed analyzing our play using this outline. I think it's a unique way to gauge how well we achieved our goals. You know Fulmer preaches the maxims, as he has the players recite all 7 before every game. He breathes them, and so should the team. This week, after a 39-19 victory over CUSA favorite Southern Miss -


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