Fans see a gentler approach to Penn State-Nebraska game
Beaver Stadium fell silent. The sidelines were empty. Players from both Penn State and Nebraska were gathered at midfield, each of them on one knee. At the center of the crowd was Nebraska running backs coach Ron Brown, the director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in his state.
The nation was watching them.
Penn State resumed playing football on Saturday morning, facing Nebraska in their first game since child-sex crime allegations against a longtime defensive coordinator resulted in the firing of Coach Joe Paterno.
There were many familiar sights and sounds. Fans tailgated for miles around. They stood in line to take pictures with Paterno’s statue outside of the east side of the stadium. They performed their traditional call-and-response chant of “We are…” “Penn State!”
But something was different, regulars at the stadium said.
“I think the people are more subdued,” said Alex Levit, a member of Penn State’s Class of 2000.
Longtime fan Robert Tintner said that if not for the scandal, fans would be “a little bit more rowdy” for a game of this magnitude. Tintner said the increased police presence was easily noticeable.
The crowd that waited for the Penn State team bus to pull up to the stadium was said to be larger than usual, as it was a couple of dozen people deep in some areas. When the players arrived, fans pointed their cameras and cell phones at them. Men held up their children so they could see them.
Nebraska fans Robert and Diana Alderson were visiting University Park from Omaha and said they didn’t know what to expect.
“It’s kind of mellow,” Robert said. The Aldersons, who are married, said they usually get heckled when they visit other schools.
“Everyone’s been overly nice,” Diana said.
--Dylan Hernandez, from State College, Pa.
Photo: Penn State players walked into the stadium before the game holding hands. Credit: Patrick Smith / Getty Images.