Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
SAN DIEGO — BYU and San Diego State wrapped up pre-game Poinsettia Bowl festivities Wednesday with a luncheon on the USS Midway, the longest-serving Navy aircraft carrier of the 20th century.
Contingents from both schools enjoyed touring the ship, visiting the museum containing historic artifacts, and checking out the flight simulators.
During the luncheon, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner said that ordinarily he would do the politically correct thing and cheer for both teams in today's Poinsettia Bowl.
But because he is the mayor — and worked as a faculty member at SDSU for two decades — Filner declared that he's unabashedly supporting the Aztecs.
Yes, BYU's Poinsettia Bowl experience could feel a lot like a road game.
At least it will be much different from when the Cougars went to the Las Vegas Bowl for five consecutive seasons at a sold-out Sam Boyd Stadium filled with blue-clad BYU supporters.
Poinsettia Bowl officials announced that 40,000 tickets have been sold for the contest, and a decidedly pro-SDSU crowd is expected at Qualcomm Stadium, which is the Aztecs' home field.
San Diego State coach Rocky Long said because his team is playing at home, it has to deal with "a lot more distractions."
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said his players, and the players' wives, "have had a fantastic time" in San Diego, which has included trips to SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo.
"It's been a phenomenal experience," Mendenhall said. "Our treatment so far has been absolutely first-class."
Mendenhall added that the intent of going to a bowl is "to win the game. It's important to me. It's important to our team, mainly from the standpoint of, you'd like to have that positive experience and memory carry you through the offseason. It's one of the last things you remember."
THE FINAL GAME: Mendenhall would like to see the two dozen seniors on BYU's roster end their careers with a win.
"I really hope they are able to play hard and play really strong to the finish, because that's what they've done all year," he said. "I'd like to see them do that again."
Mendenhall added that he savors the last few days he has to spend with his seniors.
"That's where most of my thoughts are and it's hard," he said. "I really, really like this particular group of seniors. We've been through a lot. It's hard to think about not being with them again."
Senior quarterback James Lark said it's important to play well in the last game.
"It means a lot, especially for the group of seniors we have. There's a bunch of us. We're excited to finish the season out right."
ON ANDERSEN'S DEPARTURE: During Wednesday's press conference, a reporter asked Mendenhall what he thought of Utah State coach Gary Andersen's decision to take the Wisconsin job.
"I didn't know (about it) until you just told me," Mendenhall said.
Then, he added, "he's deserving. He's a really good coach. I'm sad for the folks at Utah State. I think that's one of the unique things about college football, but if we're not careful, it will become NFL-like. I think there is a point where coaches being at a certain place where the players that they actually committed to come there and promised that they'd have a good experience, I'm worried about that part of college football."
YOU NEVER KNOW: Long said it's difficult to predict what you're going to get in a bowl game.
"I expect this to be a very hard-fought, close football game. But I've been around long enough to know it might not be," he said. "… You never know until you start playing."
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