- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 13, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — They call this isolated dip in central Pennsylvania’s mountains Happy Valley, where withered fields of corn stalks inch toward Penn State’s campus, cloaked in brick and the bright red and yellow leaves of autumn.

But happiness is elusive these days, from the growing row of television satellite trucks encamped along College Avenue to state troopers in riot gear on horseback in front of Beaver Stadium to hundreds of candles dripping wax in front of Old Main.

The candles — with pictures of the Virgin Mary and scents such as lemon crisp or chai rooibos — remain from Friday night’s vigil by thousands of students to remember the alleged victims of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Nine days ago, he was charged with 40 counts of child sexual abuse, initiating an ever-widening scandal that has shaken this idyllic campus and exposed a conflicted relationship with its beloved football program.

No one seems to know what happens next, as the town sorts through a week of chaos.

The uncertainty washed up against Beaver Stadium on Saturday, where the university’s first game without Joe Paterno since 1949 mixed the usual blue cans of Bud Light, the Allegheny Rib Company’s stand offering Paterno masks and speakers blasting the Puhdys’ “Baba O’Reilly” with John Matko’s lonely vigil on Curtin Street.

A man displays a sign before an NCAA college football game between Nebraska and Penn State Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A man displays a sign before an NCAA college football game between ... more >

“Honor the abused kids,” one of Matko’s two signs read, “by cancelling the game and season now.”

Fans clad in blue, ostensibly to support victims of child sexual abuse, cursed Matko, grabbed and kicked his signs, tossed beer, slapped his stomach, wagged their fingers and ridiculed him.

“That is such [expletive],” one young woman yelled at Matko. “Who the [expletive] do you think you are?”

“Not now, man,” bellowed one of few passers-by who abstained from profanity, “today is about the football players.”

Football drove much of what occurred in State College last week. After the university’s board of trustees fired Paterno in a late-night phone call Wednesday for not informing police after being told of an alleged sex assault by Sandusky, thousands of students flooded narrow confines of downtown State College in a protest that quickly turned riotous.

Baseball-sized rocks and bottles pelted outnumbered state troopers in riot gear. A television van was overturned, its windows bashed out. Chants of “We want JoePa” and “[Expletive] the media” rained down like the clouds of OC spray the troopers fought back the crowds with.

No one tried to help Pat Daugherty, the 64-year-old who owns The Tavern, begin to clean up the destruction at 1:45 a.m.

As interim coach Tom Bradley was asked about his starting quarterback four minutes into his introductory press conference in Beaver Stadium’s sterile media room Thursday morning, the broken glass and downed light poles with silver and blue Christmas decorations and crushed Natural Light beer cans were swept away downtown.

You couldn’t tell anything happened, other than Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett begging students to refrain from violence and cruisers packed with troopers staged downtown.

Bradley wouldn’t talk about Sandusky. Not after the first, second or sixth question. Bradley, at Penn State since 1975 as a player or coach, swore he knew nothing about Sandusky’s 15 years of molestation and rape of young boys the 23-page grand jury indictment alleged.

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