STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State was united in its desire to beat Ohio State on Saturday. But there are still signs of division — or at least signs of mixed emotions — in this first post-Joe Paterno football season for the Nittany Lions.
Some Penn State fans looked to the future and wore messages like “Restore the Roar” on their t-shirts. Other shirts said, “We Bill-ieve,” referring to new Penn State coach Bill O’Brien.
But “Joe Knows Football” shirts were seen about as frequently as those messages in the seats at Beaver Stadium and on the streets of State College. There were other shirts which were less than complimentary of the NCAA.
A shirt shop in town was still selling the “Joe Knows Football” shirt on Saturday. A magazine rack at a nearby gas station had a Sports Illustrated special edition tribute to Paterno, but there was no sign of the regular weekly issue of the magazine about the Penn State scandal which carried the biting headline, “We Were Penn State.”
Paterno, who coached Penn State for 46 years and won a major college-record 409 games, was fired last November for failing to properly handle allegations of child abuse by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
There was much unhappiness at the time of the firing and, obviously, some people have not let go of those feelings yet.
The focal point for the never-forget Paterno fans on Saturday was the site of the now-removed statue of the coaching icon outside Beaver Stadium.
Paterno loyalists had fashioned a makeshift shrine to the Penn State legend before Ohio State’s 35-23 win over on the Nittany Lions.
Maybe the eeriest part of the tribute was a painting depicting a larger than life, ethereal image of Paterno peering down into Beaver Stadium from the clouds in a reference that needed no explanations.
“Legends never die,” said a sign near the painting. And emotions take a long time to subside.
Events, along with long memories, won’t allow that.
Just Friday, Penn State’s board of trustees gave a subcommittee authority to make financial settlements with Sandusky’s victims, of which around 25 have already come forward.
A few days before that, indicted former Penn State athletic administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz asked for a postponement in their trial for perjury. And, of course, Sandusky is in prison.
This football season has turned into a fell-good story for a football program and fan base desperately in need of one.
Beating Ohio State and winning for a sixth time in a row would have been even more of a boost for Penn State. Ohio State denied that, but the new beginning goes on.
Penn State and Paterno’s reputation still face some tough days ahead. But in time both probably will recover at least some of their former status.
SHAZIER’S NUMBER CHANGE: Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier wore No. 48 instead of his usual No. 10 as a tribute to a high school friend who died last summer.
The friend, who suffered from muscular dystrophy, was an unofficial part of the high school football program Shazier played for and had a jersey with No. 48 on it.
“We were just really close. He was like a brother to me. He was part of the team and everywhere we went, he went,” Shazier said. “He was somewhat like a manager. I don’t know what you would call it
because he really wasn’t able to do much.”
BIG CROWD: Saturday’s crowd of 107,818 was the biggest of the season at Penn State. It beat the previous high for the year by 9,026 fans.
MEYER’S FIRST IMPRESSION: OSU coach Urban Meyer had been to Penn State once as a broadcaster but this was his first time in Beaver Stadium as a coach.
“This is big league, a big league atmosphere,” he said.
BACK TO EVEN: Ohio State has played at Penn State 10 times since the Nittany Lions came into the Big Ten in 1993 and Saturday’s win brought its record at Penn State to 5-5.