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December 24, 2011LAS VEGAS -- The night lights, luxurious resorts, and mesmerizing shows hypnotize many into risky propositions here, luring visitors to put it all on the line in hopes of an extraordinary outcome.
With conventional odds stacked heavily against the two-touchdown underdog Arizona State's football team, it performed as the sports books predicted, unable to pull off a marvel in a 56-24 loss to No. 7 Boise State in the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl Thursday.
It wasn't the final bow coach Dennis Erickson had wanted after what once appeared to be a promising 2011 season crumbled down the stretch into an overall 6-7 (4-5 in Pac-12) finish with five straight losses to end his tenure with the program.
"This thing came a long way so fast," Erickson said. "In a month we went from contract extension to being sent down the highway."
There are many speculations as to what exactly steered ASU in the wrong direction, however the question itself left Erickson and other members of the ASU football team dumbfounded.
"I don't have an answer for it," Erickson said. "I dug through experiences throughout coaching. Maybe I can take it back to UCLA and 3rd and 29 and we're up with two minutes to go and they complete that play. From that it just kind of went downhill. We lost confidence on defense and there were some opportunities on offense where we did not convert."
Junior quarterback Brock Osweiler added his view to the question that dangled like the frigid air at Sam Boyd Stadium following the game, making it difficult to know which left the Sun Devils more bone-chilled: the weather, or their final resting place.
"Like I've said for an entire month, we've tried to figure out what happened we don't know what happened," Osweiler said.
One thing that is clear: Erickson's track record at ASU, as he finished 31-31 in five seasons in Tempe, which includes a losing record in the last four in conference play and none better than .500 overall.
With a rather lustrous career before arrival into the Valley of the Sun, the two-time National Champion and three-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year - with 197 college wins against just 97 losses - appeared to be unsure as to where his career is headed after Thursday night.
"It's difficult," Erickson admitted. "When you put so much of your life into something as I have for over 40 years, it's very emotional. I talked to pretty much all of [the players]. Football is the greatest game in the world. I am glad I got to spend a lot of time in it."
When asked what his favorite part about coaching was, Erickson simply stated, "the players."
In the past couple months there has been widespread speculation the game has passed him by, and an increasingly reflective Erickson appeared to be considering that possibility.
"Things have changed over the years," Erickson said. "Maybe the players have changed, maybe I have changed."
Despite the end product of 2011, there were some notable accomplishments for the Sun Devils that were given an exclamation mark Thursday.
Osweiler became the first ASU quarterback to throw for over 4,000 in a single season, which also included 26 touchdowns. During the post game press conference Thursday night, Osweiler was emotional crediting much of his success to outgoing offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who will serve UCLA in the same capacity next season.
"Coach Mazzone is the reason why I just threw for 4,000 yards this season," Osweiler said through tears that streamed throughout the post-game press conference. "And now he's gone and it hurts."
Senior receiverGerell Robinson, who had a Las Vegas Bowl-record 241 receiving yards, had 77 catches for 1,397 yards and seven touchdowns on the season, falling just shy of school record holder Shaun McDonald's 1,405 yards on 87 receptions in 2002.
Running back Cameron Marshall failed to reach pay dirt against Boise State, but had 18 touchdowns on the year which tied the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season with ASU Hall of Famer Woody Green and Terry Battle.