KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee hasn't beaten Florida in so long that even the Volunteers who grew up near campus can't quite recall what they were doing the last time it happened.
Their hazy memories are understandable. Most of them were in elementary school or middle school at the time.
"Knowing me, I was probably playing it on a video game — playing as Tennessee and beating Florida," Tennessee nose guard and Knoxville Catholic High School graduate Daniel Hood said. "I can't say I remember too much about it. I just know it's been too long since we have beaten them."
Florida has beaten Tennessee each of the last seven years, which represents the Gators' longest winning streak in this rivalry's 41-game history. After winning 13 of its first 15 games with Florida, the Vols have gone 6-20 against the Gators since.
"We just want to keep the tradition going and keep winning," Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson said.
No. 23 Tennessee's hopes of starting a new streak Saturday against the 18th-ranked Gators rest on its ability to reverse the recent trends in this series.
The Vols haven't had a single 100-yard rusher, 100-yard receiver or 300-yard passer against Florida throughout this streak. Florida hasn't committed more turnovers than Tennessee in each of these seven games. Tennessee hasn't exceeded 23 points against Florida since its last victory in this series, a 30-28 shootout in 2004.
Florida continually has seized the moment while Tennessee has broken down.
"It's a rivalry, so you never really want to lose," Florida linebacker Jon Bostic said. "Going into the season, it's one of the games on the schedule that's always circled. It's pretty much a statement game."
The Gators' run defense has made the biggest statement lately. Florida has outrushed Tennessee in each of these seven games and held the Vols to negative yards rushing twice. The Vols had minus-9 yards on 21 carries in a 33-23 loss to Florida last season. Over its last seven games with the Gators, Tennessee has averaged 1.8 yards per rush.
Tennessee's last victory over Florida marks the last time the Vols outrushed the Gators. The Gators clearly have a rushing edge during this streak. They also might have a mental edge.
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said he never discusses streaks with his players. He didn't talk about Tennessee's 26 consecutive victories against Kentucky before the Vols' 10-7 loss to the Wildcats last year. Nor did he mention Tennessee's six straight losses at the Georgia Dome before the Vols' season-opening triumph over North Carolina State in Atlanta.
"Those things don't matter unless you talk about it and make it matter," Dooley said. "They don't. What matters is what team's going to show up and play for 60 minutes in the best possible manner. That's all that matters. The streak has nothing to do with it, unless you think it does. If you think it does, then it does."
Dooley emphasized his point by referring to Nuke LaLoosh, the flighty minor-league pitcher played by Tim Robbins in the movie "Bull Durham."
"It's like Nuke LaLoosh," Dooley said. "If he thinks he's throwing good because he's wearing the garter, then he is throwing good because he's wearing the garter."
Dooley said he didn't sense that his players were dwelling on the streak the last two seasons, but Hood indicated the Vols' mental approach may have cost them.
"We'll hit that point where we have some adversity against us and we're not able to rise above it," Hood said. "That'll be the test this game, to be able to rise above it whenever they hit a big play on us and give us some adversity."
Tennessee never recovered against Florida last season after star receiver Justin Hunter tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the Vols' opening possession. This year, the Vols believe they won't panic if things don't go their way.
"We're more mature," Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch said. "We know how to handle winning. When we can't control things, guys keep their composure. We're an all-around better team than last year. We're more hungry and humble."
Although the Vols insist they won't let the streak get to their heads, it remains on their minds.
Dooley really has no need to discuss the drought. His players understand what's at stake.
"It does bother us," Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray said. "I think this team's got a bit more maturity this year. Last year we probably wouldn't have cared about the streak. We were just trying to win. This year we're taking some pride and some ownership. We need to beat them."