A seven-game stretch that figured to be rough on Air Force was all that and more.
After losing all seven - the longest such streak since 1979 for the program - the Falcons will line up Saturday (10 a.m. at Falcon Stadium vs. Army) for the first time since the opener against a team not favored to beat them.
Perhaps it is the sense of relief that stems from emerging out of this rough stretch, or maybe it's a ay now that a bowl game is out of the question or maybe it's just the old axiom that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Whatever it is, there has been a palpable energy exuded from this team at a time when you might expect something else.
"You've got to stay positive at times like this," fullback Broam Hart said. "None of us have ever really had experience with a team that has lost seven games, especially in a row. If you have negative thoughts you have negative actions, so we try to have positive thoughts."
Hart was one of several players this week to approach reporters with smiles that seemed genuine.
To junior Christian Spears, that attitude is a reflection of the team's coach, Troy Calhoun.
"He does coach football, but there are so many other aspects to just life in general that he shares with us as a team," Spears said. "Knowing that and continuing to pinpoint that week in and week out it does give us a brighter day. It gives us something to look forward to. We all love to play football and we love to win, but there's so many other facets to it than just that factor. Coach Calhoun helps us realize that and he helps get the team going and ready for the next week to play."
Other players referenced phone calls with their families as a source of perspective. Hart said his mother reminded him that this period in his life may be difficult, but it won't be the last time he finds himself in such a position.
"I never knew how to act when I got kicked in the teeth," Hart said. "Now I do."
Others have looked inward for motivation.
Senior guard David Lore said he wants to continue to improve and make his last game be the best that he ever plays.
Fellow senior Anthony LaCoste shared similar views. Still adjusting to his first major role in the offense, the running back wants to post big number in his few remaining opportunities.
Others quoted their religious faith, their competitive drive and a focus on remaining upbeat as an example to the team's younger players for their surprisingly positive demeanor.
Linebacker Joey Nichol seemed happy to finally face a team that will line up and run right at the Falcons. Passing quarterbacks have torn apart the defense, but with ground-based attacks from Army and then New Mexico there won't be as many worries about broken coverage schemes. It will be about nothing more than making tackles.
"I feel like a lot of things have worked against us, all the time," Nichol said. "We're going to catch that break and we're going to move on. We're going to catch that break and we're going to win."
Air Force may face similar struggles again. Michigan is already on the schedule for 2017 and similar opponents may be added in between.
Calhoun said he won't shy away from that and he likes young players in particular to be exposed to as many situations as possible, even if it means risking a long losing streak.
"It hasn't been fun," Calhoun said, "But it hasn't killed anybody."