KNOXVILLE - As Tennessee fans know all too well, the Vols face an 11-game losing streak against Florida as they head into their home game this weekend.
Their last win against the Gators was in 2004 - on home turf.
Can a losing streak impact players' performance?
"It can if they let it," says sports psychologist and performance consultant Dr. Craig Wrisberg.
He's also professor emeritus of sport psychology and motor behavior, with UT's Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport Studies.
"The only play that matters is the next one. Play forward....Don't drag the past into the present," he said. "We want the present clear, clean, so that we can fully devote our energy and attention to the present."
Wrisberg worked in 2004 with James Wilhoit, the Vols kicker who clinched Tennessee's 2004 win against Florida with seconds left in the game.
But Wilhoit's game-winning 50-yard field goal came after what could have been a game-losing miss.
"He had...missed an extra point: the only one he missed in his season, about 4 minutes before they got the ball back and he had the chance to win it with a field goal," Wrisberg said.
Wilhoit could have buckled under the pressure, with the Florida game riding on his final kick, but he had been working on his focus all season long.
"When I think of the mental game or the mental side of competing, I think there's like three P's," Wrisberg explained. "Process-focus, present tense, staying positive: expecting to succeed."
Overcoming a losing streak is a matter of mindset, he said, and focusing on those three P's is what can give Tennessee its long-awaited win.
ESPN.com senior staff writer Chris Low said an 11-game losing streak weighs more on the fans than the players.
"Teams change. Coaches change," Low told WBIR 10News Thursday. "These players...have known, 'Yeah, we've lost to them for two or three years in a row,' but I don't think they wear that 11-game streak around their neck the way most fans do."
Still, he said, a win Saturday will position the Vols for good things in its next three SEC matchups, but a loss will set them back.
"Starting with this game, Florida, they've got four straight games of four weeks against top-flight SEC opponents. They've got to play a lot better. I think they understand that," Low said. "I think that's critical for Tennessee is to come out and have something happen good, early."
For his part, Wrisberg encourages each player to focus on the play at hand, and then Tennessee can expect a win.
"Forget the streaks," he said.
He also urges players to ignore trash talk from Florida, saying that's only a tactic to put the Vols off their focus.
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