UNIVERSITY PARK -- The scandal isn't over. Far from it. But for a university, a football program and a community that feel hurt, angry, confused and betrayed, the healing process began Saturday.
On a historic day in college football, the game itself between Penn State and Nebraska was the least important thing. Fifty years from now, few will remember that the Cornhuskers held off a PSU rally and won, 17-14, before a season-high crowd of107,903 at Beaver Stadium.
This will be remembered as the first game after.
After the shocking Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
And after the shocking firing of one of the nation's biggest sports legends, Joe Paterno.
The noon game began with a moving moment that surely brought tears to the eyes of many as players for both teams, along with about 300 former Penn State players, gathered at midfield for a prayer.
"It's just not about football; this is life," PSU defensive lineman Devon Still said. "It's tragic what happened, and we put aside everything that had to do with football for those few minutes and just understood what life is all about."
Many people on hand have lived their entire lives knowing only one Penn State head coach, and many more weren't born the last time Paterno was not a member of the coaching staff.
That was 1949.
But JoePa's legendary career is now over as he was fired Wednesday in the wake of the scandal, ending a head coaching career that began in 1966.
Paterno wasn't at the stadium in person, but he clearly was there in spirit. Several times there were chants of "JoePa, JoePa" or "Joe Paterno, Joe Paterno."
But this also should be noted: Glancing over the crowd, while there were many chanting for Paterno, there were others standing right next to them who chose not to take part. That was perhaps their way of silently protesting that JoePa didn't take enough steps to bring about justice after he learned in 2002 that Sandusky allegedly had raped a 10-year-old boy in a shower in the football building.
"It's a horrific thing," Jay Paterno said of the scandal in which Sandusky allegedly assaulted eight boys. "You just don't want that to happen to anybody. And we all feel that way. There's not a person in America that doesn't feel that way.
"We hope that justice is done and the victims receive some peace of mind at some point," JayPa later added.
Early Saturday morning, Jay stopped by his parents' house a mile away from campus and dropped off a letter. He didn't want them reading it until after he left because it would have been too emotional for all of them.
The younger Paterno didn't disclose specifics of his letter, which came two days after his father had sent a letter to the players on the team after he had been fired. What was in that letter?
"Just basically that he was sorry that he wasn't there for us," Still said.
When JoePa's letter was read, quarterback Matt McGloin said, "You could hear a pin drop. It was a lot of tears, and it was just an emotional time. Even though it was only a few sentences, it was strong sentences. You knew that Coach Joe was upset that he couldn't be here with us."
There were, however, homages paid to Paterno.
His son wore a tan winter coat that appeared to be the same one his father wore in 2001 against Ohio State when he captured his 324th career victory, surpassing Bear Bryant for most in Division I-A history.
Jay Paterno, who shed tears during a postgame TV interview and got choked up several times talking to the media afterward, played coy about whether it actually was the same coat.
"I don't know," said Jay, who coached from the sideline instead of the press box. "It was in his closet, so I took it. I'm dead serious. [Third-string quarterback] Shane McGregor said something to me on Thursday; he said, 'Hey, isn't that the coat he wore against Ohio State?' I said, 'I don't know. It was in his closet.'"
The first offensive play of the game for PSU was a fullback dive to Joe Suhey -- significant for two reasons. That was Paterno's signature play for years, and the Suhey family is considered the first family of Penn State football.
"Who knows? That's for you guys to figure out," offensive coordinator, PSU alum and longtime Paterno friend Galen Hall said when asked if it was an homage to JoePa.
Told it appeared to be an obvious one, Hall shrugged his shoulders and said, "Then it might have been pretty obvious. ... No, we didn't go and say to everyone, 'This is for Joe.'"
Jay Paterno said his father watched the game on TV but did not disclose the location.
"He wanted to watch it on TV because he wanted to make sure that the guys he coached and the guys he felt very close to would understand that he was part of this, that he would still want to be part of this and he was pulling for them," JayPa said.
Paterno has lived for football for so long, and some are wondering and worrying what his life will be like without it, especially in the wake of the legacy-damaging scandal.
"Of course we're worried about him," Still said. "That's my head coach. He taught us a lot, and he made us the men that we are today. No matter what's going on with what happened, we still have to respect him for everything that he's done for us.
"Him not being there, of course it hurt us. But Joe's the type of person that doesn't want us to think about him. He would want us to go out there and think about playing football."
Receivers coach Mike McQueary, another key figure in the scandal as he witnessed the alleged 2002 shower rape by Sandusky, also wasn't at the game. He's been placed on an administrative leave of absence and has been vilified by many across the nation for not doing more to help the alleged victim.
"We tried to talk to Mike McQueary before the game because obviously he's been a member of our staff, and we wanted to reach out," Jay Paterno said. "Tom Bradley called him, and we were going to get on the phone and talk to him."
It's unclear if that phone call connected to McQueary and if he actually spoke to Bradley, who is now the interim head coach and faces his own concerns with his coaching status up in the air after this year.
"All I have thought about is doing the best job that I possibly could for these student-athletes here at Penn State," Bradley said. "That's all I've been worried about is just making sure that I do the best job that I can. We owe it to them."
New Penn State President Rodney Erickson, who took over for the fired Graham Spanier, felt like he and the university owed the fans some words of appreciation for their support Saturday in the wake of the scandal.
"We have really been through a very tough time, no question about that," Erickson said, "but I think we have also displayed the real character of Penn State and the values of Penn State over the past day now."