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Penn State rally falls short against Nebraska, 17-14

November 12, 2011 | 12:53 pm


There was plenty of irony in the way Penn State lost its football game, 17-14, to Nebraska on Saturday at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa.

What the No. 12-ranked Nittany Lions had to offer during the game came too little, too late.

Trailing 17-0 midway through the third quarter, Penn State rallied to pull within a field goal with more than five minutes left but No. 19 Nebraska held on.

FULL COVERAGE: Penn State scandal

The Nittany Lions had the ball twice in the last 3 minutes 52 seconds, but couldn’t score.

The way the game ended, perhaps symbolically, was chaotic.

Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin completed a pass to Devon Smith in the middle of the field as the final seconds ticked down. The Nittany Lions barely got another play off, but McGloin was rushed and was only able to get off another short pass to the middle of the field that fell incomplete.

The loss was Penn State’s first in Big Ten Conference play after five wins. The Nittany Lions are 8-2 overall but have road games against two tough opponents, Ohio State and Wisconsin, to finish the regular season.

Nebraska improved to 8-2 overall, 4-2 in conference play.

Interim Coach Tom Bradley spoke during a television interview afterward about how proud he was of his team.

“I think you saw a lot of character, a lot of resolve, by this team,” he said. “I liked the way they stuck together … we fought hard.”

He then turned his attention to the alleged victims in the child sex-abuse scandal that has rocked Penn State’s program.

“We grieve for the victims,” Bradley said. “We feel sad for the families and the children. What went on today was all about them.”

The game was played before a capacity crowd of more than 100,000 and it came in the wake of a scandal that shook the foundation of a proud university with a football program that was thought to be a model of success on and off the field.

Jerry Sandusky, a longtime assistant coach, is out on bail after his arrest for crimes he allegedly committed against children, at least once at the Penn State athletic facility.

Joe Paterno, a month shy of his 85th birthday, was not calling the shots for the Nittany Lions as head coach for the first time in 46 years. He was fired by the university’s board of trustees Wednesday, along with school president Graham Spanier.

Former athletic director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz have been charged with perjury and failure to report an alleged 2002 assault by Sandusky, and Mike McQueary, a former Penn State quarterback and an assistant coach who has told a grand jury he witnessed an assault and told Paterno about it, was placed on administrative leave.

A special committee is now looking into what critics are saying must have been a cover up.

When Paterno’s firing was announced, there was rioting in the streets. A news van was turned over, and rocks and bottles were thrown.

Since then, cooler heads have prevailed.

Friday night, thousands attended a candlelight vigil for the alleged victims.

On Saturday, fans who typically wear all-white at home games bathed the stadium in a sea of blue in another acknowledgement of victims of sexual abuse.

There was a moment of silence before the game and an emotional rendition of the school’s alma mater before the team’s final home game of the season, when Nittany Lions’ seniors were honored.

A few players wore blue shirts under their uniforms with letters that read “Joe knows football.” Dozens of former players showed up to give current team members their support.

Shirtless students in the front row had painted their chests light blue with white letters than spelled out, at least partially, “For the kids.”

Paterno stayed home. Outside there were TV crews, reporters and a couple of people who stopped on the sidewalk, knelt and prayed.

One of Paterno’s sons, Jay, an assistant coach, took his father’s spot on the team bus and helped call plays on the sidelines.

After the game, he said his family “had better weeks in our lives.”

Jay Paterno visited his father’s home hours before the game and delivered a letter. Asked what he had told his father he said, “Just how proud I am of him.

“Dad, I wish you were here. We love you.” 


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--Mike Hiserman

Photo: Penn State fans are painted in blue with white letters that spell out 'For the kids' across their torsos. Credit: Patrick Smith / Getty Images