Standing outside the defensive meeting room in the bowels of the Dal Ward Center on Saturday night as the clock approached midnight, safety Parker Orms seemed exhausted and exasperated but also resolute.
The senior stalwart from the Colorado football team was doing his best to contain his emotions after losing to USC in his final home game and dealing with the reality that the Buffs won't be going bowling this season.
For Orms and other members of the senior class it was a particularly painful final night on their home field because none of them ever have enjoyed the college football postseason.
So naturally the questions came about what is left to motivate this team as it enters its final week of practice, during a holiday week in which there is no school and many of their fellow students have left town for fall break.
The Buffs have to prepare for the final road trip to Utah where they will face the Utes on Saturday afternoon in the season finale.
"Winning," Orms said. "That why we're going, to get a W, to make sure we have five wins instead of four before we leave. That's the biggest thing. Just get a win."
Coach Mike MacIntyre spoke to his team about that issue in the moments after a bitter defeat to the Trojans on a bitter cold night. He encouraged them to get the most out of their final week of the season and to play for the seniors, most of whom will never put on shoulder pads and helmets again after leaving Rice-Eccles Stadium on the Utah campus Saturday.
The truth is, MacIntyre didn't have to be much of a salesman in making this pitch. His team bought into his approach and message long ago and it's not about to change now, especially when the players are beginning to honestly believe they aren't that far away.
"A lot of teams are looking at it like, 'Oh, we're not going to a bowl, we're just going to give up.' That's not us," Orms said. "That's just not the way that our coach coaches us and that's not the type of players we are."
The Buffs had bragging rights over just one Pac-12 Conference foe at the end of last season because of a victory during the season against Washington State, which finished the 2012 season tied with the Buffs at 1-8 in the conference.
But even that felt a little hollow because Washington State had won three games last season while the Buffs had managed just one.
CU can claim another level of improvement with a victory over the Utes and avoid last place in the South Division. Both teams have identical 4-7, 1-7 records heading into the finale.
A victory would give the Buffs two wins in the conference -- they also beat Cal -- and a legitimate 10th-place finish. MacIntyre said earning a victory this week would be helpful in recruiting and good for the team's psyche in the offseason.
"It's very important for next year to end on a high note," quarterback Sefo Liufau said. "These guys are like family. We are going to stay together and we are going to go out fighting to win like we would if we had a bowl game."
Wide receiver Devin Ross suffered a concussion against USC and is day to day this week. MacIntyre said there were no other new significant injuries to report. He said he believed freshman linebacker Addison Gillam will be able to play at Utah after injuring his back against the Trojans.