The Arizona Wildcats gathered in their locker room in the minutes after Thursday night's 30-29 loss to rival Arizona State.
They talked about sticking together, about bouncing back. And about adversity.
But how do you respond to a four-game losing streak? How can you get off the mat when your season is defined - as it is now - by an inability to hit two short kicks?
How do you define success amid so much failure?
UA place-kicker Alex Zendejas had two PATs blocked - one that would have given the Wildcats the lead with 27 seconds left in regulation, and another that would have extended the game to a third overtime - as the Sun Devils walked away Thursday night with a one-point victory. ASU (6-6, 4-5 Pac-10) will petition the NCAA to play in a bowl game.
"Life," UA coach Mike Stoops said sullenly, "has a way of evening out."
On Thursday, cruelly, it made perfect sense.
It was Zendejas, after all, who felled the Sun Devils with a 32-yard field goal on the final play of the game a year ago.
This year's result was different, a crushing blow for a UA team that will finish its regular season on a four-game losing streak.
The Wildcats (7-5 overall, 4-5) will receive an invitation to a bowl game - likely the Alamo Bowl or Holiday Bowl - on Sunday, a complicated scenario that won't be finalized until Oregon faces Oregon State, Washington battles Washington State and Stanford learns its final BCS ranking.
The promise of a holiday spent in either Texas or Southern California was of little consolation Thursday night. The Wildcats were held scoreless in the first half, surrendered an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, and were spurned by two blocks.
Zendejas' first miss came at the end of arguably Arizona's best drive of the night - a 10-play, 57-yard drive that should have given Arizona the lead.
Quarterback Nick Foles and the Wildcats got past midfield in three plays before appearing to stall at the Devils' 40. Facing fourth-and-two from ASU's 38, Foles found David Douglas - his roommate and best friend - for a 7-yard gain. The Wildcats moved to the Sun Devils' 5 on a 15-yard pass to Terrence Miller. Then, Foles - rolling to his right - found Douglas again with a low pass in the end zone.
Zendejas trotted out to win the game only to have his PAT blocked by ASU defensive end James Brooks, sending the game into overtime.
The Wildcats and Sun Devils traded field goals in the first overtime. Arizona State started the second extra period with the ball, and promptly drove for a touchdown. Cameron Marshall's 2-yard run made it a 30-23 game.
Arizona converted on a key third down on their second possession of overtime, Keola Antolin rushing for 8 yards to the Devils' 10. Foles then found Douglas for the score - only to watch as Zendejas' kick was blocked.
By Brooks. Again.
The Wildcats' junior kicker was devastated. He threw his helmet to the ground and, before walking to the locker room, exchanged words with an irate UA fan.
Defensive end Ricky Elmore said he couldn't stand to leave the field.
"If they didn't make me leave," he said, "I would have stayed there."
Foles' game was Arizona's season in reverse - he struggled in the first half, but finished with a 262 passing yards and three touchdown. ASU's Brock Osweiler did him one better, throwing for 267 yards and rushing for 56 yards against a UA defense that couldn't take the 6-foot-8-inch quarterback down.
"We had five sacks, but he must have gotten away five other times and made some great plays," Stoops said.
Foles was among the Wildcats who consoled Zendejas in a sullen locker room.
"Z's a great guy, a great kicker," Foles said. "He had a rough outing, but it'll make him stronger. There are things that happen in life that are tough, but you have to respond."
For what, exactly, the Wildcats aren't exactly sure.
After such a promising start, the UA's season has been defined by misses. The Wildcats' future is, understandably, murky.
"We've got to stay together as a team," Foles said. "Like we were saying in the locker room, we're a family. So no matter what, we have to lift each other up."
On StarNet: Watch video highlights from the post-game news conferences at go.azstarnet.com/finley
BCS SELECTION SHOW
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