Penn State fans reflect after loss


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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- One week after the details of a child sex abuse scandal rocked Penn State University to its core, nearly 108,000 football fans packed into Beaver Stadium and showed support both for child victims and their Nittany Lions, but they ended up watching a loss.

The crowd, more subdued than on a normal football Saturday because of the roiling emotions of the past week and the firing of iconic head coach Joe Paterno, stood for a moment of silence at the start of the game to show concern and regret for the allegations of years-long sexual abuse of eight young boys against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

"I felt today, just maybe, the healing process started to begin," Mr. Paterno's successor, interim football coach Tom Bradley, said after the game.

All was quiet in the heart of the Penn State campus immediately following the 17-14 loss to Nebraska.

Outside Old Main, an administrative building where thousands of students held a vigil last night, students milled about, rarely stopping to gather in large groups.

Across College Avenue, one of the main arteries of campus, three men standing on a second-story apartment balcony played music and tried, with little success, to start the "We are Penn State" chant.

Nicole Lebbad, a 2007 graduate, who attended the game, said, "I think we all wanted to win today a little more than usual. It would have helped to show that...in the face of adversity we were going to overcome."

Nearby, outside the main gate to the university on the corner of College Avenue and Allen Street, members of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse held a late-afternoon vigil honoring victims of child sex abuse.

A small group of maybe two dozen people held signs with slogans such as "Silent no more" and a quote attributed to Albert Einstein: "The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil but because of those who look on and do nothing."

Tammy Lerner, the foundation's vice president, called for Penn State administrators to be transparent as the investigation continues.

A self-described child sex abuse survivor, Ms. Lerner also asked those gathered to push for two separate pieces of state legislation that would abolish the statute of limitations for those accused of sexually abusing children and give alleged victims two years to file a lawsuit against the people who harmed them.

"I'm standing here in the flesh to tell you it destroys lives and families," Ms. Lerner said of the crime.

Speaking to the victims of the sexual abuse crimes a grand jury charged Mr. Sandusky with committing, Penn State junior Kaila Derienzo said, "We grieve for you during this most difficult time."

Ms. Derienzo asked people to turn their focus away from students who rioted earlier this week and away from the departures of former coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier, whom she described as "the two most influential people at this university" and as people who had been "hastily fired." Instead, she asked that people focus on Mr. Sandusky and his alleged victims.

Some students flocked here shortly after the game ended to show their support for "JoePa," who has yet to emerge from the house, if he is there at all.

Sue Paterno appeared briefly outside her home to address the students gathered on her lawn early in the evening.

In a soft voice, she described the recent days as a "difficult time" made more tolerable by the Paterno supporters.

"we've always thought of Penn State as a family. ... We will be again. ... We'll be back. Were not going anywhere."

Hours earlier, passers-by shouted expletives at the group of cameras and reporters gathered outside the Paternos' house.

Jay Paterno returned briefly to his father's home this evening and was greeted by dozens of cheering students who stood on the lawn and urged him to "Tell Joe we love him!"

Mr. Paterno shouted back, "We are!" to which the students replied, "Penn State!"

He drove away flashing a peace sign through the window as he left.

They left signs for him and chanted his name as the sun went down.

A barricade on the end of McKee Street bars cars except local traffic. Such was also the case at the home of Mr. Sandusky on Grandview Avenue, State College police said. Police would not say whether they have taken any other security precautions at the Sandusky home.

Most fans attending the Nittany Lions' final home game against Nebraska were supportive of Mr. Paterno, who was removed from the coaching staff Wednesday. The last time the Nittany Lions played a game without Mr. Paterno on the staff was 1949, when Harry Truman was president.

Tom Lowe, a 1977 Penn State graduate, wore a dark blue sweatshirt reading "Thanks Joe" and featured an image of Mr. Paterno's legendary high-water khakis and sneakers.

"Joe has been a part of the university, and I mean the university, not just the football team, for as long as I can remember," Mr. Lowe, 56, said.

Two team buses were met by thousands of huddled fans when they pulled up outside Beaver Stadium at 10:20 this morning.

Interim coach Tom Bradley left an open seat for Paterno on the team bus, and Paterno's son Jay, an assistant coach, appeared emotional as he walked toward the stadium.

"It's a very sad day without Joe," said Fran Ganter, a former assistant coach under Paterno who is now an associate athletic director.

Fans said they wanted to support the players, who they say had no role in the scandal.

"What happened doesn't reflect everyone involved with the university," said 1991 graduate Dave Granski. "I still love Penn State."

High school senior Colleen Tygh was recently accepted by the university and said she will likely attend Penn State. The recent scandal hasn't changed her opinion.

"I love the school more than I hate what happened," she said.

Kristin Twardon, a 2009 graduate, wore a shirt supporting Mr. Paterno and a blue ribbon to honor victims of child abuse.

"What happened, that's just really wrong," she said of the charges against Mr. Sandusky.

Several students had publicized a "blue out" to honor those and other victims of child abuse.

A bomb threat Friday night at Beaver Stadium was unfounded, say university police who again searched the area this morning and found nothing.

Police received the anonymous threat Friday, prompting them to canvass the facility with bomb-sniffing dogs and additional officers.

The FBI was also called to investigate.

Penn State police said they have bolstered security at Beaver Stadium since Tuesday and it is especially tight for today's game. Police warned that security measures might delay fans' entrance into the stadium, where bag inspections "will be more thorough and deliberate," police wrote in a message on the university's website.

They urged fans to report "anything out of the ordinary" by calling 814-863-1111.

Nearly 600 reporters were credentialed for today's game.


Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1722; Sadie Sadie Gurman: sgurman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Staff writer Michael A. Fuoco contributed to this report.


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