BOULDER, Colo. - Having watched their Pac-12 hopes crushed in September, their coach fired in October and their bowl aspirations extinguished in November, maybe what happened Saturday wasn't all that surprising.
After a season of losses, the heartache of human nature finally caught up to Arizona Wildcats at the foot of the Flatirons.
How else to explain perhaps the most puzzling outcome of a season filled with them: a 48-29 loss to Colorado, a team that hadn't won in eight weeks, in which the UA never led and rarely came within a score.
"I guess when the going gets rough for us, we somewhat fold," safety Robert Golden said. "I feel like some guys on our team competed, and a lot of guys didn't."
That's what UA coach Tim Kish thought, too. The Wildcats "have a tough time fighting through" adversity, he said.
"There was that mental take-a-seat-back mentality that we've had most of the season," Kish said. "That wasn't very pretty."
When the wind-swept game was through, Colorado's students rushed Folsom Field.
Goalposts were quickly disassembled, for fear they would be carried to Pearl Street in celebration of the team's first Pac-12 win.
The Wildcats (2-8, 1-7), meanwhile, questioned whether they had competitive fire.
"I think there's a lot of guys that do," offensive coordinator Seth Littrell said. "But I also think there's some guys - and let's not sugar-coat that - there's some guys that I don't feel like are doing that."
In front of 48,111, the Wildcats failed in strange ways.
Trailing 13-10 in the second quarter, Taimi Tutogi was stuffed for minus-2 yards on third-and-one. Forced to punt, the Wildcats snapped the ball toward Kyle Dugandzic's left, and a bit low.
He reached for the ball and caught it, but his knee touched the ground.
He was ruled down.
Kish wouldn't comment about the play - "I can't say a word," he said - but admitted he'd never before seen such a call.
The Buffaloes (2-9, 1-6) took over at the 28 and scored, three plays later, on a 17-yard Josh Ford run. Ford's first score in three years - dating to his senior year in high school - gave CU a 20-10 lead.
The Wildcats never got so close again.
The third quarter saw the Buffaloes take a 17-point lead, their largest against any opponent this season. Things got only got weirder.
Arizona faked a punt but got stuffed.
It tried a 57-yard field goal, trying to harness an unrelenting wind that reached 71 mph at its peak - but fell 15 yards short.
And then Colorado scored its fifth touchdown on a trick play.
At the 14-yard line, Tyler Hansen handed off to Rodney Stewart, running right. Stewart - who galloped for 181 yards and three scores on 24 carries - took three steps, stopped and threw the ball back to the quarterback, who had sprinted up the left sideline.
Hansen caught the ball and tumbled into the end zone for a 34-10 lead.
"We've played long enough - crazy stuff happens," said wideout David Douglas, who caught a touchdown. "What good teams do is, they respond to those well."
The UA scored three touchdowns in the final 16 minutes to try to rally, the first on Tra'Mayne Bondurant's 29-yard interception return.
Nick Foles, who passed Willie Tuitama's 9,221 career passing yards to set the UA's all-time record, led the Wildcats on two fourth-quarter scoring drives. Both times, Colorado countered with touchdowns.
The Wildcats' last gasp was foiled when Foles - who went 35 of 53 for 352 yards - threw his third interception on the first play after his team recovered an onside kick trailing by 12.
"I was thinking, 'Not this time,' and the other players were thinking the same thing," said Stewart, whose 204 yards from scrimmage vaulted his career totals into first-place all-time at CU. "We didn't panic at all."
The Wildcats are left to wonder what to expect from their final two games, starting Saturday at Arizona State.
"I don't think anybody quit; I don't think that at all," linebacker Paul Vassallo said. "But whether they responded the way we would have liked, or however you want to say it, I'm not sure."
Asked whether his teammates were pulling in the same direction, Bondurant said it was hard to read minds in the locker room,
"Hopefully we are," he said. "If we're not, then we're paying for it."
On StarNet: Read Ryan Finley's blog this week for a report card on the Arizona-Colorado game at azstarnet.com/finley
See more photos from the game at azstarnet.com/gallery
• What: Arizona at ASU
• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
• TV: FSAZ
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM