UK football has losing streak on the brain

Joker won't talk about it, but players will

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 22, 2011 

Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Ronnie Sneed tackles Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Tyler Bray during the fourth quarter of Kentucky at the University of Tennessee Nov. 27, 2010.

AMY WALLOT

When the streak started, Coach Joker Phillips was a player at Kentucky.

The streak already was 14 years running when UK assistant coach Tee Martin was quarterbacking Tennessee to its national championship.

The last time Kentucky beat Tennessee was in 1984.

The Vols' 26 straight wins over the Cats is the longest active win streak between two major college teams in the country,

There have been close calls as of late. Five of the last seven games were decided by 10 points or fewer.

The last two times the games were in Lexington, they went to overtime.

In fact, the streak gets even lengthier when you consider that the Cats haven't beaten the Volunteers in Commonwealth Stadium since 1981.

Phillips didn't want to discuss the decades of futility on Monday.

"I'm not going to talk about the streak," the UK coach said, almost as if discussing a living, breathing thing. "I'll talk about the goal of ours to win the last game."

Tennessee Coach Derek Dooley shook off talk of the streak, as well.

"Our focus this week is Kentucky," he said. "I know a lot of people are going to want to change the focus away from Kentucky to other things like streaks and bowls and all that."

But now that Kentucky's other streak of five straight bowl trips has ended, the losing streak versus the Vols is the one the Cats (4-7, 1-6 Southeastern Conference) are most eager to talk about.

Before the scoreboard lights were turned off on UK's 19-10 loss at Georgia, which ended the bowl streak Saturday, Raymond Sanders was discussing the UT dominance.

When asked how Kentucky would motivate itself this week, he didn't blink.

"We end the streak," Sanders said. "That's the goal. It's got to end this year. We've got to come out playing like we did today and put an end to it."

Senior linebacker Ronnie Sneed said Saturday's game against the Volunteers means everything.

"We still get to end the Tennessee streak, and that's our main thing we're going to focus on this week," he said. "This is basically our bowl game when you look at it and we're going to come out swinging."

The game has importance beyond the streak for the Tennessee players, who are one win away from being bowl eligible themselves.

"It's going to make them come out and play hard, and it's going to make it that much tougher of a game for us," offensive lineman Stuart Hines said. "We're going to come out and prepare our best this week and be ready because they have a lot to play for, as well."

Some Cats admitted that it would be a bonus to beat Tennessee (5-6, 1-6 Southeastern Conference) and end its bowl hopes on Saturday.

"It's a really good opportunity to win, but you get to keep them from some of their goals while achieving ours," senior defender Anthony Mosley said. "It's a really huge game. It's a big opportunity."

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