Penn State fans show their support

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 01, 2012
As fans gather around Beaver Stadium in anticipation of Saturday's long-awaited season opener, the overall mood around Penn State football is that of pride, perseverance and support - for both the current and former coach. Hours before the official beginning of the Bill O'Brien era, tailgaters are tossing footballs through the parking lots, setting up their cooking stations and readying themselves for the new Nittany Lions' debut against Ohio at noon. Many are wearing ''We Bill-ieve'' shirts, endorsing Penn State's new leader, O'Brien, who is the former offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, and who has the been a steadying force within the program for nine months. When the team arrived at the stadium, O'Brien was the first person to deboard off bus No. 1, followed by his game captains Derek Day, Jordan Hill, Gerald Hodges and Matt McGloin. Though the statue of Hall of Famer Joe Paterno - O'Brien's predecessor - was removed July 22, the day before the NCAA announced the sanctions for the Jerry Sandusky scandal, many fans still hold Paterno in high regard and are unafraid to show it. One tailgater, in fact, has a 16-foot, homemade banner that reads ''409 wins with honor,'' referring to Paterno's victory total. Other fans are wearing shirts that read ''We Are ... Still Proud.'' Where the statue used to stand, a fan placed a Paterno bobblehead between the trees. Others are stopping to snap pictures with cellphones and cameras. Dressed in Penn State jerseys, Cindy and Mark Wascavage of Washington, N.J., paused to remember the man they say will always be the face of Penn State football. ''It makes you wanna cry,'' Cindy, 54, said as she saw the bobblehead. The couple has held season tickets for the past nine years and has always admired the former coach, even through these difficult times. ''He was the whole football program,'' Cindy said, while Mark believes on this proud day, all of Penn State will stand united. Chris Bartnik, of Chantilly, Va., created a life-size cutout of the former coach to honor him, and carried it with him through the lots. He stopped by the former statue holding place, but did not keep the cutout there out of fear it would be removed by university personnel. ''I don't think it's fair,'' he said, ''to pretend Joe Paterno never existed.'' At Paterno's gravesite, fresh flowers were added to the fading collection of notes and memorabilia by Rob Elchynski, 44, who stopped by with his wife and friends before the game. ''I think it's critical to the moving-on that they talk about, that they start playing football again,'' Elchynski said, walking back to his car after saying a short prayer at the graveside. Some 15,000 fans gave a preview of what to expect on gameday at Penn State's pep rally Friday night at the stadium. As the team sat on bleachers atop the field, and O'Brien gave a brief, but inspirational, speech, a familiar refrain echoed through the Beaver Stadium crowd. ''We Are ... Penn State!'' ''I can't tell you how much we need to hear you all tomorrow,'' O'Brien said at the time. ''We need to hear you loud and proud to cheer these guys on.'' The Nittany Lions were the stars of a 45-minute show that built up to the team's entrance about two-thirds of the way into the event. They were barely there for 10 minutes, watching the debut of the 2012 season video to get the crowd pumped for kickoff before listening to O'Brien's brief talk. It was an emotional outlet for students and fans who have united behind the players following strict NCAA sanctions including a four-year bowl ban. ''This is a very, very special group of players, led by a very special senior class that has made a huge commitment,'' O'Brien said. ''Our guys have worked extremely hard ... They're tired of hitting each other and they can't wait to get going. Thank you very much and we'll see you tomorrow.'' The rest of the athletic department had the chance to show its support, as well, on Friday. New signs at Beaver Stadium include the slogan ''One Team'' - a motto for the entire department, not just the football team. Coaches from other Penn State teams also addressed the crowd. ''We're all one voice, and that one voice needs to be heard with great passion, great pride and great enthusiasm. Not just tonight, not just tomorrow, but from here on moving forward,'' said men's basketball coach Patrick Chambers in an impassioned speech.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

White Sox fan wears a fantastic taped-up Chris Sale jersey

Wisconsin kicker will wear 27 to honor Nebraska's Sam Foltz

Dennis Schroder wears disguise to play in German streetball tournament

Browns indicate they will give Josh Gordon another chance

Prince Fielder to undergo season-ending neck surgery

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Eagles want Carson Wentz to be 'starter ready' Week 1

Report: 49ers concerned Anthony Davis will quit again

Did Manning hurt NFLPA's case in HGH investigations?

Report: Steinbrenner won't allow fire sale, wants to make playoffs

Report: Dion Waiters agrees to one-year deal with Heat

Report: Junior Galette out for season with torn Achilles

Tom Jackson could leave ESPN after almost three decades

Cavs sign coach Tyronn Lue to a five-year extension

More than 10,000 people registered for Jaguars Pokemon Go night

NFL issues new concussion protocol

Angels listening to offers on Hector Santiago

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

Kevin Durant’s OKC restaurant will be closed, rebranded

Lamar Odom said to be held back by one 'toxic friend'

Mario Balotelli crashes Liverpool fans' wedding

Michael Vick: I used to feel I was 'dominating too much'

WATCH: Astros, Rangers minor leaguers get into brawl

A too early preview of UEFA World Cup 2018 qualifying

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker