KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones allowed himself a final look back at Saturday’s 34-31 victory over Georgia, a win already regarded as one of the most exciting finishes in the history of the Tennessee football program.
The Hail Mary pass throw between the Sanford Stadium’s famed hedges will stand as the defining moment, quarterback Josh Dobbs dropping back from the Georgia 43-yard line and unleashing the ball from his own 49, a perfect spiral that Jauan Jennings pulled down from a crowd of four red jerseys.
The touchdown completed Tennessee’s improbably comeback from 17-0 down in the first half and 24-14 entering the fourth quarter, and Jones flashed back to the reading of Gen. Robert Neyland’s 7 Maxims before each game.
The No. 9-ranked Vols (5-0, 2-0 SEC) will next do so at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday before they face No. 8-ranked Texas A&M (5-0, 3-0). The reading of the Maxims are one of several Tennessee traditions Jones embraces.
“One of the greatest things we do here are the 7 game Maxims, and if you really look at the 7 game Maxims, each game plays upon a Maxim, and this was a Maxim 3 football game,” Jones said. “When we repeated the Maxims, for some reason we got stuck on Maxim 3, and I made our football team repeat it three times. ‘If at first the game of breaks go against you, don’t let up, and put on more steam.’
“And I thought it was going to be that type of game, and I’m really proud of our players.”
Jones said the historic win over Georgia — the first of its kind in the modern era, according to former UT sports information director and team historian Bud Ford — was like other games in that it came down to a handful of key plays.
Here’s how Jones listed the key plays at his Monday press conference at the Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio:
• “In the first half, I thought third-and-15 scramble by Josh Dobbs for a first down, right toward the end of half, then obviously Josh’s touchdown before halftime proved to be one of the differences between wining and losing and getting points on the board. Knowing you are getting the ball at the start of the second half, and we were able to do that with a touchdown drive coming out.”
• “If you look later in the game, the fourth-and-2 stop with Shy Tuttle being able to tip the football (and force and incompletion and change of downs at the Vols’ 25 with 9:02 remaining), I thought that was big.”
• “One of the best plays all year was Riley Lovinggood, and there’s a long snapper than runs down the field and catches the ball over his head to down the football (at the Georgia 5-yard line) and without us downing the football and playing field position … (because) that lends itself to a strip sack and Corey Vereen scoring a TD (2:56 left), but that wouldn’t have happened if we don’t down the football there.
“I had great confidence that our defense could generate a three-and-out and confidence that our punt team and punter Trevor Daniel could get the ball down there.”
• The kickoff return Georgia had (to the Bulldogs 46 with 2:45 left), again we cannot afford to give up a big return, we had some mental mistakes on that kick return and Aaron Medley had to make a game-saving tackle, and he made a great tackle on our sideline to prevent a score there.”
• “I thought Evan Berry’s kickoff return at the end (to the Georgia 48), and also Evan having the wherwithal to get out of bounds and leave four seconds on the clock, where he could have cut back and tried to make something happen. If he does that, the ball game is over with. We told him to get everything you can get, and get out of bounds. I think executing the different kickoff return we had in, we’ve had it in three years and never executed it and never done it, but we practiced it every Friday.”
Here are Tennessee’s 7 Game Maxims. The Vols have repeated them before every game since Neyland’s final coaching tenure (1952), except former coach Lane Kiffin did not have them repeated before road games the one season he was head coach (2009) according to the book, “How The SEC Became a Goliath”
(7 Maxims source, UTSports.com)
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 game – or the breaks – go against you, don’t let up… put on more steam.
4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game.
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 our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.