Mike Hull, right, and Anthony Zettel, left, sack Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller in the first quarter of last month's loss to the Buckeyes.
By Mark Dent / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If the meteorologists have the forecast correct, the Penn State-Wisconsin game Saturday promises 36-degree temperatures, spots of sun and winds of about 10 mph. It will be perfect weather for short sleeves.
At least that's what most Penn State players think. And like the Nebraska game last week, which Penn State coach Bill O'Brien described as taking place in a squall, they will not cover their arms Saturday in Madison, Wis. They will leave them bare, exposed to the elements. They will do this because, well, that's football.
"Yeah, it's kind of like a toughness thing that we have going," linebacker Mike Hull said. "[Glenn] Carson, myself, Nyeem [Wartman], we don't really want to show any weakness. So we kind of go bare-skinned."
An unofficial count of Penn State players who got into the game against Nebraska revealed that nearly two-thirds of the team were not wearing any long sleeves in the sub-freezing weather. The outliers included offensive tackle Garry Gilliam, tight end Adam Breneman, punter Alex Butterworth, kicker Sam Ficken and quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
Butterworth and Ficken spend little time on the field. Hackenberg said he wants to keep his throwing arm warm. He elevates above the peer pressure.
Guard Miles Dieffenbach said offensive linemen must forgo long sleeves no matter what the thermometer reads. Told that Gilliam was wearing long sleeves for the Nebraska game, Dieffenbach insisted that Gilliam paid for it.
"He definitely felt the pain of the offensive line," he joked.
O'Brien tells the players they can wear whatever they want under their jerseys as long as it makes them comfortable and comes from equipment manager Spider Caldwell. He doesn't buy into the "warm clothing makes you weak" argument.
"Some of the best players I've ever seen were bundled up quite a bit," O'Brien said. "I don't know if you saw the [New England] Patriots game the other night, but it was freezing cold. Tom Brady was bundled up there with the deal on and the sleeve. But I thought he played pretty well in the game."
O'Brien wore a jacket, ball cap and gloves for the Nebraska game, significantly warmer clothing than strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald. He wore his standard outfit: navy Iron Lion T-shirt, shorts and whatever superhuman powers allow him to survive in such cold. His beard was the heaviest part of his wardrobe.
O'Brien declined to discuss what he was like as a player at Brown. But whether he subscribed to the school of Dieffenbach and Hull or followed his own doctrine, it might have been irrelevant.
"Our season was over in the middle of November," he said, referring to the losing seasons Brown experienced when he played there.
Perhaps we should assume he wore sleeves, though. After all, O'Brien commented that he drove his car from his office to Beaver Stadium Tuesday rather than his usual go-cart.
Only crazy people would consider tooling around a snowy State College in late November -- or people like Fitzgerald.
"Fitzy drives a golf cart with a T-shirt and shorts on," O'Brien said.
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.
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