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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — The Nebraska and Penn State players gathered at midfield before the game, kneeling together for a long moment in a quiet stadium.
Sometimes, the most powerful statements are the simplest.
Saturday’s game was a combination of pep rally, cleansing and tribute for a Penn State community rocked by the child sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky that cost Joe Paterno his job.
“We’ve had better weeks in our lives, obviously,” Jay Paterno, the quarterbacks coach, said after the game. “The world’s kind of turned upside down, but I think our kids were resilient.”
Affection for Penn State and Paterno was abundantly visible from players, fans and, yes, coaches. So was support for abuse victims. Beaver Stadium was awash in blue — the color associated with child-abuse prevention — right down to the flags that accompanied the band, and more than $22,000 was collected for charities that support prevention of child abuse.
“We wanted to demonstrate, not just in the Penn State community but to rest of world, that Penn State is a caring community,” new president Rod Erickson said afterward. “That Penn State will move forward with a sense of purpose. And that, hopefully, there are elements of good that can come out of situation we found ourselves in this past week.”
All that was missing was a victory. The Nittany Lions fell to Nebraska’s Cornhuskers 17-14.
After falling behind 17-0, No. 12 Penn State rallied with two second-half touchdowns, sending the crowd of 107,903 — largest of the year at Beaver Stadium — into a frenzy. But the Nittany Lions fell short on their last two drives, and the game ended on an incomplete pass by Matt McGloin.
When the last whistle sounded, several Penn State players took off their helmets and stared at the ground. A few Nebraska players jumped in the air but their celebration was subdued, as if mindful of the torturous week the home team had endured.