Penn State Scandal: Nittany Lions Lose First Game Without Joe Paterno

PHOTO: Joe Paterno
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Penn State University's Nittany Lions played their first football game in 46 years without legendary head coach, Joe Paterno, 84, who was fired amid a sexual abuse scandal that rocked the campus this past week.

After an emotional pre-game prayer involving all the players and coaches from both Penn State and visiting Big Ten rival Nebraska, the Nittany Lions fell behind 17-0 in the third quarter, and their comeback fell short, losing 17-14.

The moment of silence was held for the victims of alleged child sexual abuse at the hands of a former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, a scandal that led the board of trustees to fire Paterno along with the university president and other school officials.

At a news conference after the game, newly appointed Penn State President Rodney Erickson -- who replaced former president Graham Spanier, who also was fired -- said he believed it was right to play and bring national attention to issue of sexual abuse.

He said the pre-game moment of silence "one of the most moving and genuine" shows of support he's seen.

Despite the turmoil in the football program, Erickson said that if Penn State -- which was ranked No. 12 coming in to the game -- receives a bowl bid, the school would not turn it down.

"If our student athletes have earned the right to compete" in a bowl, "I see no reason not to do so," he said,

Sandusky has been charged with sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year period. Two other university officials are facing perjury charges related to the case.

The mother of the first child to contact police alleges that her son was about 11, and enrolled in programs sponsored by Sandusky's Second Mile Foundation, when the molestation began.

She sought intervention from her son's guidance counselors, who confirmed her suspicions that he had been molested by Sandusky who, she said, also was regularly taking the boy away from school grounds during the schoolday, without her knowledge or consent. Her son spent time alone with Sandusky, she said, and slept overnight in his basement.

"I was horrified," the mother said, of what she learned from school counselors.

Increased security was in place for today's game against Nebraska and "inspections will be more deliberate and thorough, and the University's regulation on bags will be strictly enforced," university officials said.

On Friday, Penn State received an anonymous bomb threat for Beaver Stadium.

Police and FBI investigated and did not find anything. "They searched the area again this morning, and again found nothing," officials said in a statement posted on Penn State's website.

Right before the game kicked off today, it was an emotional moment at Beaver Stadium as Penn State and Nebraska players and staff walked to the center of the field and kneeled in silence for several moments in prayer.

Nebraska won the coin toss but deferred its choice to kick or receive to Penn State.

Penn State Tries to Refocus

Penn State, a longtime sports powerhouse, has much more on the line than football.

While riotous student protesters, angered by what they view as the scapegoating of Paterno, overturned one TV crew's vehicle this week and gathered en masse in front of Paterno's home, other students have placed their focus elsewhere.

"The important thing is what happened to these kids... Some people are forgetting what this is really about," said Megan Lister, another student at Penn State, which attracted thousands to Friday night's candlelight vigil for the alleged victims. It replaced a planned pep rally.

Many of the 100,000 fans who packed the stadiium for today's game were clad in blue -- the designated color spotlighting sexual abuse of children -- instead of the white that is customary attire for Penn State home games.

"The whole situation is heartbreaking," President Obama said in an interview during a media time out at the Carrier Classic basketball game on Friday. "We think first and foremost of the victims of these alleged crimes."

Another major change in plans is the removal of assistant coach Mike McQueary from the coaching line-up for today's game against Nebraska.

Now on administrative leave, McQueary was a 28-year-old graduate assistant in the football department when he allegedly saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy, roughly about 10 years old, in the locker room showers.

McQueary left the building and reported the incident to Paterno the next day.

Authorities said McQueary did what was required of him and he was not a target of the investigation.

Newly appointed Penn State President Rodney Erickson, who replaced former president Graham Spanier, who also was fired -- said McQueary "couldn't function in his role under these circumstances."

Officals also told "Good Morning America" that they were concerned about McQueary's safety.

Though prosecutors have said Paterno is not targeted by police probes of Sandusky's alleged sex crimes, Paterno has retained J. Sedgwick "Wick" Sollers, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney whose clients have included former president George H.W. Bush.

Paterno, the winningest coach in the history of NCAA Division 1 football, was fired Wednesday night.

Sandusky also faces possible charge in San Antonio, Texas, where he allegedly threatened to ship another of his alleged Pennsylvania victims back home after the boy rejected Sandusky's advances during 1999 Alamo Bowl.

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