One bad loss can negate five good wins.
One bad loss can mean players can start looking around and pointing fingers. They can start to doubt teammates or coaches or themselves.
Kentucky is hoping to avoid all of the negatives that could follow a bad 41-3 loss at Louisiana State last weekend.
The Cats can't let it linger long, Coach Mark Stoops said, especially with the No. 1 team in the nation coming to Commonwealth Stadium for a nationally televised broadcast this weekend.
"I think because we got whooped and had ... some mental mistakes, sometimes that can shake somebody's confidence, and we'll see how they respond," Stoops said on Monday.
The bad habits that kept Kentucky winless in the Southeastern Conference for 17 straight games and helped put UK in the conference basement cannot return because of a difficult loss.
"We've got to make sure they don't slip back and start doubting," Stoops continued. "It goes back to preparation and work and controlling the things we can control."
But the coach said he doesn't have any reason to believe that Kentucky (5-1, 2-2 SEC) is shaken heading into a matchup with undefeated Mississippi State on Saturday.
"I have a good feel we'll bounce back and prepare well and play well," he said.
It goes with what the coach said shortly after the throttling by LSU at Tiger Stadium.
"We can't let one game define us," he said. "We always talk about it: Win or lose, you got to move on."
That seemed to be the players' message after that loss, too.
"We do not plan on continuing that for the rest of the season," senior wide receiver Demarco Robinson said. "We just need to go back and get better this week."
Much like he said after the three-overtime defeat at Florida, quarterback Patrick Towles said UK was not planning to make losing a habit. The Cats responded with three straight victories.
"We played way different in the first six games," he said. "And we're going to play way different than we did tonight in the next five."
It should help refocus this group that they're facing the No. 1 team in the country in the Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0), who have won five in a row over Kentucky.
The Cats are 3-11 against top-ranked opponents in school history, with the last win over a No. 1 coming in 2007 versus Louisiana State. Saturday will be the fifth time in the last seven years that UK has gone up against the No. 1 team in the nation.
It's a big opportunity, Stoops said.
"Anytime you're playing a No. 1 team in the country, you're going to have great exposure," he said of the CBS game. "We want to play well and represent our program and what we've been doing and all the hard work so it's important for us to go out and play well."
Boom Williams improving
Kentucky's Stanley "Boom" Williams has made steady improvement since he was injured in the third quarter of the Louisiana State game, but his status is still not clear.
The freshman running back, who suffered what Mark Stoops called a head injury after the collision that left him motionless on the field for several minutes, is getting better.
"Things look better, not cleared to play yet, obviously," Stoops said Monday. "I'll wait until the doctors tell me he can get on the field but, I think, yeah, things are looking better. When he will be cleared to practice or play I have no idea."
Attention that is usually reserved for its neighbor just to the East, the state of Mississippi has been the center of the college football universe this season with Mississippi State owning the No. 1 spot and Ole Miss being rated No. 3.
Could that happen in a state like Kentucky with the Cats and Louisville?
"I don't see why not," Stoops replied. "I really don't. I feel like we're both working extremely hard to build our programs, we both have great support, and they've been a very talented and good football team and we're working our way toward that.
The Cats' game at Missouri on Nov. 1 has been picked up by the SEC Network and will kick off at 4 p.m.
It also will be the second straight game that Kentucky is a part of a game where the SEC Network show SEC Nation will be on campus. This weekend the show is scheduled to be at Kentucky in the Purple Lot from 10 a.m. to noon.
■ At his news conference today, Les Miles said LSU had submitted tape and that the "conference is looking at it" of wide receiver Dorian Baker's block of Kendell Beckwith on a run by Patrick Towles.
■ Four Kentucky players — defensive end Bud Dupree, punter Landon Foster, safety A.J. Stamps and offensive lineman Darrian Miller — were named mid-season All-SEC by Phil Steele.