This past week, Penn State football fans have lived through a tragic child abuse scandal, the firing of both their university president and legendary football coach of 46 years, student riots and a stadium bomb threat. As they filed into Beaver Stadium in State College on Saturday for a game against Nebraska, most were ready for anything.
What they witnessed on the field was a late Nittany Lions comeback stopped by a Cornhusker 4th-and-1 defensive stand. What they witnessed around the stadium, however, was dignity and respect.
In the first game following revelations of alleged child sexual abuse by former Penn State defensive coach Jerry Sandusky, the stadium was covered in blue, the color associated with child-abuse prevention. Before the game, groups raised more than $22,000 for child-abuse prevention charities, and players from both teams came together at midfield for a pre-game prayer. The anger that drove Penn State students to overturn a news van earlier in the week was replaced by expressions of support for both the victims and the school, and with cheers of "We are Penn State" breaking out across the stadium.
Although the crowd remained somber throughout much of the game, the season-high multitude of 107,903 came alive when Penn State running back Stephfon Green scored twice in the second half to narrow Nebraska's 17-point lead to three. On their following two possessions, however, the Nittany Lions failed to convert on fourth downs and came up empty, losing to Nebraska 17-14.
As the team walked off the field, the fans continued to cheer, "We are Penn State." After the most turbulent week in school history, the game was about much more than the action on the field. It became, hopefully, the first step in the healing process for a university community that had suffered massive hurt and shock.
Photo: Center Daily Times