McGrane: Aztecs Lampoon Pomposity of Power 5

The Aztecs visited Little Italy on Tuesday.
March 22, 2017

Little Italy Highlights | Little Italy on SportsCenter

2016-17 Mick McGrane Features
Continuity Makes a Comeback (Jan. 15)
SDSU Hits its Stride in Recruiting Race (Feb. 4)
Aztecs Knock Down Doors on Recruiting Trail (Feb. 9)
Ernie Lawson Comes Home to New World (March 17)
Washington now has Room to Roam (March 21)
Peer Pressure? Not for Chapman (Aug. 8)
Penny is Worth Every Cent to Aztecs (Aug. 18)
Football has Never Been More Fun for Siragusa (Aug. 19)
Nobody is Perfect, but Barrett is Closing Fast (Aug. 28)
Aztecs Force Future with a Premium on Past (Sept. 1)
Chapman Earns More than Passing Grade (Sept. 4)
Aztecs Have Put Critics in Their Corner (Sept. 9)
College Football Makes Comeback in San Diego (Sept. 11)
Veteran Leadership is Treasured Commodity (Sept. 15)
SDSU Shuns Fence in Favor of Fortress (Sept. 22)
Life is neither Necessarily Easy nor Fair (Oct. 7)
Pumphrey, Penny and Pick your Poison (Oct. 9)
For Hauck, Teach Outweighs Turbulence (Oct. 13)
Aztecs' Defense in State of Denial (Oct. 22)
Aztecs Taking no Prisoners in Homestretch (Nov. 6)
Block Party Rages on for O-Line (Nov. 18)
Seniors Can Savor Lasting Legacy (Nov. 25)
Remorse has no Place in Rematch (Dec. 1)
Fame Isn't Always Written in Stars (Dec. 13)
For Aztecs, a Rarity has Become Routine (Dec. 17)
Recognition Won't Slow Aztecs' Resolve (Jan. 13)
Aztecs Prepared to Assume Center Stage (Jan. 20)
Continuity Fortifies Aztecs' Stronghold (Feb. 3)
For SDSU, It's What's Up Front That Counts (March 3)
Lakalaka Looms Large in Aztec LB Corps (March 15)
Aztecs' Baron Gets Kick out of Notoriety (March 17)
Ricks Hopes to Put Best Foot Forward (March 20)

McGrane: Aztecs Lampoon Pomposity of Power 5
By Mick McGrane, GoAztecs.com Senior Writer (@MickOnTheMesa)

It took Michigan's football program nine months to finalize plans for its trip to Rome, Italy.

It took San Diego State a week.

Further proof that not only are the Aztecs capable of beating teams to the punch, they're also proficient at beating them to the prosciutto.

In what was a good-natured poke at the Wolverines' trip to Italy next month and a not-so-subtle reminder of the gulf between college football's haves and have-nots, SDSU on Tuesday sampled its own slice of Italy.

Little Italy.

While an unidentified Michigan booster will reportedly spend countless thousands to send the Wolverines to the Eternal City as part of their spring practice session, the Aztecs needed three charter buses and about three hours to immerse themselves in the largest Little Italy neighborhood in the United States.

And if there was no Colosseum, no Pantheon and no St. Peter's, there was nonetheless bocce ball at Amici Park, music at Piazza Basilone and a visit to Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church.

Afterward? Italian cuisine for more than 100, spread among the eateries of Sorrento Ristorante, Cafe Zucchero, Filippi's Pizza Grotto and Mona Lisa Restaurant.

Take that, Jim Harbaugh.

"I said, 'Well, we can't take our guys to Italy. We'll take them to Little Italy," said Aztecs head coach Rocky Long. "I just thought it was a great idea, and I'd love to take our team to Italy, too, but we can't afford that kind of stuff. Only a few people in the world can afford to take 200 people on an expense-paid, nine-day vacation.

"Obviously, it's the haves and the have-nots. It's an interesting deal, because then everyone wonders why you don't beat them."

Not yet, at least.

In 2016, SDSU won its second straight Mountain West title. The Aztecs capped the season with a 34-10 win over Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl to finish 11-3 for the second straight year. The season culminated with a No. 25 ranking in both the AP and the Amway Coaches polls, just the second time that the Aztecs have been ranked in the final AP poll in program history (also 1977). The 11 wins tied a single-season school record as SDSU became the first team in program history to post back-to-back 11-win campaigns.

"It's definitely new scenery for some of us, those of us who've never been here," said senior running back Rashaad Penny, the self-proclaimed bocce ball ace among the group. "Other than the things we do in the summer with our coaches, it's one of those things that gets everybody together and helps you bond. It's something that's fun, and it's probably even more fun than Italy because it doesn't cost so much."

With Harbaugh already discussing plans to take the Wolverines to South Africa and Japan in future years, Long is countering with trips to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, formerly known as the Wild Animal Park, and the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park.

"Most of them are going to get to see a part of San Diego they've never seen before," Long said. "They'll have a good time and realize what a neat place San Diego is. It has all the stuff we don't have to get on an airplane for. We get to do it right here."

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