Boise State will be motivated by nothing else other than to show that it got shafted once again by the BCS. ASU on the other hand has a lame-duck coaching staff that isn't even taking advantage of all fifteen practice sessions available before the December 22nd game. While players have said the coaching staff has been very adamant that they want to win this game for the players, one has to wonder if they really are fully invested in the outcome.
As far as the game is concerned, the mindset of the coaches means nothing in comparison to the mindset of the players, who seem to be ready to play a tough game despite the coaching staff's situation.
"I don't think it's affected us," senior safety Eddie Elder said of the coaching situation. "We're just trying to go out on a good note because everybody knows it's a disappointing season, so we're just trying to bring this Vegas Bowl win to Tempe and try to send out the coaches and us seniors on a good note. It doesn't bother us at all."
Elder's response and the coaching staff's vow to the players that their effort won't be compromised despite being half-way out the door says a lot about the character of Dennis Erickson who has no doubt taken his lumps from the media and fans over his career in Tempe. The fact that this may be the last bowl game he ever coaches has to weigh on him as well as his future looks fairly uncertain ahead because it definitely carries some weight for the players who may not every play football again.
"It means a lot because this is my first bowl game," Elder said of the Vegas Bowl. "I'm looking forward to that and the experience. It's my last college football game. It's not like you can go back to college and enroll and play more, your college career is over after this so I just have to give it everything I've got and we'll see what happens after that. "Everybody knows it's a disappointing season. There were big expectations for us, but being in the Vegas Bowl is a win-win because we play Boise State, they're the seventh team in the nation and they're a hell of a team, so that's a plus. Also, we're in Vegas, sin city, it speaks for itself."
If the Sun Devils can somehow get back to the way they played in the first eight games of the year they would stand to give themselves a chance against the Broncos. The issue for ASU is that its problems aren't in any one area specifically as both the offense and defense have been very disappointing in the last few weeks.
It's hard to link the success (or failure) of the offense or defense to each other, but one's failure usually begins to take a toll on the other, and while the ASU defense struggled down the stretch, it never got much help from its offensive counterpart.
"It bothers us mentally because some guys will take it in a negative way," Elder said of the offense's struggle. "Guys will be like, 'they need to step it up,' but we were in their situation before this season, so it goes both ways, offense and defense.
"First half of the season it could've been better, but that was the best it was going to get for us. The second half without Omar (Bolden) and B-Magee, it showed that we needed them because the depth was where we were lacking. We could've played better defense, hands down, we just needed more confidence in ourselves and the next person, so it could've been better, but things happen."
For Elder, like most seniors on ASU, a look back at their career in the maroon and gold may not be the happiest football memories that they'll ever have, especially this final season, but it's only one chapter of their lives, and for the lucky ones only a chapter of their football careers. Elder knows he didn't have his best season, but all one can ask of a player is max effort, and that's never been a problem for him.
"I had my ups and downs," Elder said of his season. "I could've done more for the team, but at the same time I did what I could on the field. There was no question if I went all out or not. Sometimes it may have seemed like I was sluggish, but that's just because of the long season. I could've had a better season, but I gave it my all."
Ultimately, that's all anyone can ask for.