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Michigan State's Brian Allen and Felton Davis talk about the zoo and bowl prep. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News

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San Diego — Michigan State spent its first couple days in California working hard in preparation for taking on Washington State in the Holiday Bowl.

By Christmas Day, the fun had started as the players had the morning off with many spending time with family before heading to the San Diego Zoo early in the afternoon on Monday.

For four of the Spartans, that meant a close-up view of some of the zoo’s residents.

“It was pretty cool, especially when we got to pet them or hold them or something,” senior center Brian Allen said. “The little ones kind of scare me more than the big one, but the binturong, or however you say it, that was pretty cool.”

Allen was referring to the binturong, a small mammal native to Southeast Asia. Allen, senior linebacker Chris Frey, junior receiver Felton Davis and junior linebacker Byron Bullough all got a personal look at the animal, as well as an armadillo and a tenrec, a small mammal that resembles a hedgehog.

While the rest of the team was already wandering around the zoo, the foursome was snapping pictures and petting the animals and planning where they would head next.

Davis has an affinity for goats, but he was impressed with the binturong.

“It was nice. I liked it,” Davis said. “But I saw my man (the handler) was running out of food and I knew he’d be hungry. I didn’t want to end up being the snack.”

Davis and his teammates avoided becoming the meal and eventually headed off to check out the rest of the zoo.

More: Captains Allen, Frey relish rewards of MSU’s turnaround

By late afternoon, the Spartans were piling on buses and headed back to San Diego Mesa College for an evening practice. It wasn’t going to be as intense as the first few, something coach Mark Dantonio likened to a Christmas present.

“That's what he said, but this is like a Wednesday for us during the week,” Allen said. “He tells us it's a present, but it would be like that if it was in November. Not much of a gift.”

The heavy lifting for Thursday’s 9 p.m. kickoff with Washington State has been done, however, and the Spartans are making the most of the trip.

They’ll visit the USS Essex on Tuesday before practicing then take it easy on Wednesday in preparation for the game.

“Yeah, it’s been pretty laid back for the most part,” Allen said. “We had a couple of tough practices in the morning but after that it’s kind of our time to hang out and explore San Diego. We’re staying right downtown kind of in the heart of it, so we’re able to walk around and see some pretty cool stuff.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau

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