The last time Tennessee lost to both Vanderbilt and Kentucky in the same football season was 1964, four years before Butch Jones entered the world.
A loss for the Vols (4-7, 1-6 SEC) in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday would change that.
However, none of UT's previous 116 teams have ever lost eight games. Though the motivation of playing for a bowl appearance vanquished with a 14-10 loss to Vanderbilt Saturday at Neyland Stadium, a pair of UT seniors said Monday that plenty of incentive remains to avoid a loss against the Wildcats (2-9, 0-7).
"I've already had a lot go wrong in this career, and I don't want to be that low, to be that team," senior right tackle Ja'Wuan James said with a chuckle at Monday's football press luncheon. "We just want to be 1-0 this week."
Jones cited winning a road game as "the next step" for the program throughout the season and reiterated that Monday, as did senior kicker Michael Palardy, who – along with UT's other seniors – boasts just two road wins in his career.
Those victories came against Memphis and Vanderbilt in 2010. UT is 1-15 outside the state of Tennessee since 2010.
"It's been a while since we've won a road game, a true road game," Palardy said. "We've got to finish 1-0, so we can start a streak for teams to come. That's kind of the biggest thing. The most important thing is to show that we're not giving up on each other, the coaches or on this team."
The trip up Interstate-75 also offers a chance at redemption for UT's upperclassmen. With a bowl berth on the line in 2011, the Vols lost to Kentucky for the first time since 1984. Kentucky played wide receiver Matt Roark at quarterback in the contest and threw for just 15 yards in a 10-7 victory.
But rather than an opportunity to correct the past, all those who have spoken on UT's behalf since Saturday's heartbreaker have made it clear: Saturday's contest is important because of what it means for the future.
Senior defensive tackle Daniel Hood began the trend of future-focused coaching endorsements after the Vanderbilt loss, and James picked up where he left off Monday in describing why the Kentucky matchup matters.
"There's different positive things we can take out of this season still and out of this game," he said. "I wouldn't change anything about this season. I appreciate these coaches and how they made it for these seniors, and we just want to go out here and go 1-0 and have fun."
Another incentive for James and three other seniors along the offensive line is that Rajion Neal, who surpassed 2,000 yards rushing for his career on Saturday, only needs 10 rushing yards to reach 1,000 yards for the season against Kentucky.
"That would be a proud moment for him," James said. "He hasn't run for 1,000 yet in his career, and that would be a proud moment for all of us."