Tears flowed during a pre-game ceremony like no other. Thunderous chants of "WE ARE ... PENN STATE" roared like never before, and a Beaver Stadium crowd of almost 108,000 helped the healing begin after the most sorrowful week in school history.
It was group therapy on a grand scale for the thousands upon thousands of heartbroken Penn State students and alumni trying to cope with the fallout from a child-sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the university to its core.
The crowd Saturday was trying to restore the pride shattered by an enraged public whose venomous comments have torn the soul of every Penn State student and alumnus across the country. They did so with dignity and class.
The mending began when Penn State football players walked out of the tunnel arm-in-arm, four abreast, through about 300 former players who formed rows on either side.
It continued when Penn State players, past and present, gathered with Nebraska players at midfield and knelt for a prayer delivered by Nebraska running-backs coach Ron Brown.
It was an emotional roller coaster.
They cried -- many openly, others inwardly -- because of the unthinkable suffering of children caused by the heinous acts allegedly committed by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
They cried, too, because of the shame the scandal has brought upon their beloved university, its football program and legendary coach Joe Paterno, whose relentless condemnation in the media led to his disgraceful firing last Wednesday.
The devastation, pain and embarrassment of this tragedy really hit home during the singing of Penn State's alma mater, in particular the verse:
"May no act of ours bring shame
"To one heart that loves thy name"
Nothing could bring more shame than the horrific acts Sandusky is charged with committing.
And Sandusky has to love thy name. He was a defensive end for Penn State from 1963 to 1965; he spent most of his assistant-coaching career with Penn State; and he coached the defenses for the 1982 and 1986 national-championship teams.
In 1977, the once-revered coach founded The Second Mile, a nonprofit charity that helps disadvantaged children. Sandusky met his alleged victims through the organization.
So there was anger, too, directed squarely on the accused, which is where it belongs.
Given the media attention focused almost entirely on Paterno last week, you'd have thought that he, and not Sandusky, is the real villain in this horrible case.
Paterno's fall from grace has deeply saddened everyone associated with the university he served with dignity for more than 60 years.
"Joe Pa" has not been charged with any crime. He fulfilled his legal obligation, but has been accused of failing to meet a "moral obligation" because he didn't go to police after then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary told the coach he witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in one of Penn State's football showers.
Paterno passed the report on to his superior, athletic director Tim Curley, who met with McQueary and the head of the campus police, university vice president Gary Schultz, about a week later to discuss McQueary's report.
Penn State's 256-person campus police force has the same authority as any municipal police department in the state, and Schultz was effectively its chief. The case was put in the hands of police to investigate, but that allegedly did not happen.
Curley and Schultz are charged with perjury -- lying to the grand jury -- and failure to report abuse.
Though scorned by much of the public and the media during and after his swift trial and conviction in the court of public opinion, and by the university's board of trustees, Paterno is not without his supporters.
Several times throughout the game, the student section began chanting, "Joe Pa-ter-no" and "Joe Pa." Some fans joined in; others stayed silent, perhaps withholding judgment.
NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris came to Joe Pa's defense Sunday outside Paterno's home, saying he was "upset" by the legendary coach's ouster. The former Penn State running back said he believes Paterno did the right thing by reporting the child-sex-abuse allegations to his superior.
While most of the media attention last week was focused on Paterno and the "rioting" in State College in the wake of his firing, some Penn State students turned their attention to the victims of child abuse.
They organized a "blue-out" for the game against Nebraska. Their efforts helped to raise money for the Blue Ribbon Campaign to stop child abuse; $22,000 was raised at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.
Penn State lost a hard-fought game to Nebraska, 17-14, but won the day by reclaiming the pride that rises above all else.
Things will never be the same at Penn State; students will have to bear the emotional scars from this tragedy for a lifetime.
But there is, and never will be, any shame in shouting for all the world to hear, "WE ARE ... PENN STATE!"
via New Hampshire Union Leader
Editors: John Tucker, a 1977 Penn State graduate, reflects