As the final seconds ticked off the game clock of Pennsylvania State University’s 24-14 loss to Ohio University, many fans chanted the refrain that’s been a show of school pride throughout the past year’s campus ordeal.
“We are -- Penn State,” they shouted in the Nittany Lions’ return to the field 10 months after the child sex-abuse cover-up scandal that rocked the school and its football program.
Both teams wore light blue ribbons on their helmets in support of child-abuse victims. The matchup in State College, Pennsylvania, opened a season that followed the criminal conviction of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the firing of head coach Joe Paterno and sanctions that will keep the team out of bowl games for the next four years.
Paterno’s widow, Sue, and daughter, Mary Kay, attended the game and watched from a suite, ESPN reported. The game attracted 97,186 fans to 106,537-seat Beaver Stadium.
“It was a great day to play college football,” Penn State quarterback Matthew McGloin told reporters. “We’re definitely upset we got beat today, but at the same time it shows you how much support we truly have.”
Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton threw two touchdown passes and ran for another, completing 31 of 41 pass attempts for 324 yards as the Bobcats (1-0) rallied from a 14-3 halftime deficit.
Ohio’s first touchdown came on a third-quarter pass that was tipped by a Penn State defensive back before being grabbed by Landon Smith, who ran it into the end zone for a 43-yard score.
Tettleton ran in another from one yard out and then capped a 14-play, 93-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to Donte Foster.
McGloin was 27-of-48 passing for 260 yards and two touchdowns for the Nittany Lions (0-1), who allowed 499 yards on defense.
“I’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to play better and we’ve got a long way to go,” new Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said in a televised interview.
O’Brien was hired in January following the Nov. 6 firing of Paterno after a 46-year tenure as Penn State’s head coach. Paterno died of lung cancer at 85 on Jan. 23.
Sandusky was convicted in June of 45 criminal counts tied to the abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period starting in 1994. University President Graham Spanier also was fired.
In July, Penn State was hit with a $60 million fine by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which stripped the school of 112 wins from 1998-2007, banned it from bowl games for four years and took away 20 scholarships annually for four seasons.
The team debuted jerseys yesterday that featured the players’ names on the back for the first time, a tradition-breaking effort by O’Brien to recognize those who committed to staying at the school after the sanctions were handed down.
Given the opportunity to switch schools without having to sit out a season, nine players did transfer after the sanctions, including running back Silas Redd, who moved to the University of Southern California after leading Penn State with 1,241 yards rushing last year.